Kurt Busch spent his final season at Stewart-Haas Racing and finished seventh in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Busch announced shortly after the end of the season he would move from SHR to Chip Ganassi Racing where he’ll takeover the No. 1 entry previously driven by Jamie McMurray. His final campaign in SHR’s No. 41 Ford ended with one win, six top-five and 22 top-10 finishes.
He also scored five pole positions in 2018 to earn the Busch Pole Award.
“It had my name on it and everything,” Busch said of the trophy bestowed upon him for the effort. “They spelled it right. It’s beautiful.
“What makes it that much better this year for us is we did it on all varieties of tracks. We got the pole at the Roval and that was very special for me. Talladega was great and that showed all the teamwork at SHR. Loudon was a nice pole on a short track and that was a race weekend where I thought (crew chief) Billy Scott and I turned the corner.”
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Busch made the playoffs for the 12th time and advanced to the Round of 8 for the third time in his career. He came close to advancing to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway until a late race incident with Denny Hamlin took him from contention and ended his hopes of competing for a second series title.
“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted, and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new one and two,” Busch explained of the incident. “If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead, and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out. I thought it was the right decision on staying out.”
Busch also had to recover from an earlier penalty when he illegally passed the pace car while coming to pit road.
“I’m not going to look back on it,” he said. “If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook. I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day. It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford. Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”
He ended a 58-race winless drought with a win at Bristol in August, scoring the 30th victory of his career. It was the highlight of a season Busch admitted was a roller coaster.
“I would say the low point was with two laps to go in the Daytona 500,” Busch said. “I was within a few miles of repeating as a Daytona 500 champion. We got caught up in a wreck in Turn 1.
“I would say the high point of the year was winning the Bristol Night race. That matched our great season that we were having consistently wise. To win there that boosted us right into the playoffs and gave us a strong run in the playoffs to be a championship contender.”
Now he moves on to the next phase of his career and will spend his 20th campaign as a member of CGR.
“Well, this is a tremendous opportunity to go out and win races, to have a shot at the championship and to use my experience that I’ve gained over all these years with a group like Chip Ganassi Racing,” Busch said.
“I feel like it’s a good mesh with Kyle Larson. Something that Chip and I talked about as far as the driver line-up and the way that we wanted to go into 2019 and attack and go right out of the gate and go for wins and get this program where it needs to be and what Chip has for his championship dreams.”
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