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Kurt Busch looks for more Richmond success, glad to have Tony back


Kurt Busch, right, and crew chief Tony Gibson are looking to repeat last spring’s win at Richmond in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.

Christian Petersen

When they’re paired together for the first time, how often have you heard drivers or crew chiefs talk about how long it will take for them to develop communication and rapport?

Sometimes it takes a few races, other times it may take the better part of a full season.

Such was not the case with Kurt Busch and crew chief Tony Gibson. They clicked almost immediately when they were put together near the end of the 2014 season.

“I think we hit top 10’s right off the bat, just bang, bang, bang, just sliding around a little bit,” Busch said Friday at Richmond International Raceway. “But we didn’t quite finesse that, maybe hit that exactly right, but we were cranking out top 10’s.

“So we knew we only had a short way to go to find those rhythms for a win. It was great to win here at a short track. I think that is where him and I have really had most of our success is at the short tracks.”

The reason why Busch and Gibson jelled so quickly has a lot to do with the fact both are veterans in their respective discipline as driver and crew chief.

That’s a big part of the reason why Busch won last year’s spring race at Richmond International Raceway, where the Sprint Cup Series is back at again for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.

“The personal relationship is somebody that I look up to as a mentor, as a coach,” Busch said. “It takes that head couch, quarterback, it takes crew chief/driver combo to be able to see it all in this day and age and to know what to do on pit stops, two tires, four tires. The restarts, he leaves those up to me, and yet we go back on watch tape together on what we can do better.

“It’s great to have the ability to have an old school guy like him continue to want to learn and to be the best in this garage.”

Busch’s win at Richmond was the first of two victories he claimed in 2015, the other coming last June at Michigan International Speedway.

Busch has two wins, six top fives and 11 top 10s in 30 career starts at Richmond.

“The short track part of our schedule is a lot of fun,” Busch said. “You have Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond, all are uniquely different, but they all share the same quality and that is a short track.

“Richmond is a fun track. They used to call it the action track, that was when the groove would widen out and get to two, three lanes wide. We always hope to get back to that and it’s a matter of finding the right tire and the right downforce combination to allow the cars to race competitively side-by-side in safe situations.”

The entire Stewart-Haas Racing team will get a big boost with team co-owner Tony Stewart back behind the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend.

“It’s great to have our team owner and our lead driver back in the car,” Busch said. “To have an injury outside of racing it is always tough to go through, especially with (Tony) Stewart in a retirement type of mentality the way that his emotions were going into this season.

“He has had good history here at Richmond. He has had multiple wins and it’s just nice to see him jump back in the car so soon.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski