Busch has one win at Auto Club Speedway.
For many, the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., is just another West Coast race to start the season. But for 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), a trip to Southern California means much more than just 200 laps around a 2-mile oval.
The Haas in Stewart-Haas Racing is team co-owner Gene Haas, who also is the founder of Haas Automation, the largest computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tool builder in the Western World. Haas’s company, Haas Automation, which is based approximately 100 miles from Auto Club Speedway in Oxnard, Calif., is the sponsor that appears on the black, red and white hood of Busch’s No. 41 Chevrolet SS each weekend at the racetrack.
Gene Haas founded Haas Automation in Sun Valley, Calif., in 1983 to manufacture machine tools. The company entered the machine tool industry with the first fully automatic, programmable collet indexer – a device used to position parts for machine with high accuracy. Haas moved the company to its current purpose-built facility located on 86 acres in Oxnard in 1997.
Busch is headed out to California early to tour the Haas Automation facility with his car owner. It will be his first visit to the facility, but he knows the importance the machines play in his day-to-day racing life.
Just inside the front door of the SHR shop in Kannapolis, N.C., to the left is a red, special-edition Tony Stewart VF-1 vertical machining center. In the SHR shop, alone, there are 12 CNC machines, eight vertical machining centers and four turning centers to make parts and pieces for the four-car Sprint Cup team’s fleet.
Apart from the SHR shop, Hendrick Motorsports, which provides engines and chassis to SHR, also has a variety of Haas CNC machine tools, including vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers and turning centers with C-axis, sub-spindles and live tooling.
Hendrick Motorsports cylinder heads, used by SHR and others in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, are machined using Haas ES-5 horizontals. These complex parts start life as semifinished castings supplied by Chevrolet.
When Busch takes the green flag at Fontana to make his 476th career Sprint Cup Series start, the fifth for his new team at SHR and the No. 41 Haas Automation group, he will have a better understanding of the equipment and his team owner after he pays a visit to the Haas Automation facility Thursday afternoon.
Haas Automation has served as a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series for 11 different drivers and 113 races since 2002. When Busch takes the green flag in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, he will also be attempting to make his first visit to victory lane since his last Sprint Cup win in October 2011 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“We are heading out early this week to visit the Haas Automation factory headquarters in Oxnard, California, with Gene Haas on Thursday, and also catch up with the people at Monster Energy and Panic Switch Army. This is a big race for a lot of our partners that are based in that area of California. We are visiting the FOX Sports studios on Wednesday to see what they have going on and be a part of their shows, plus doing some work with the local TV affiliates on both Wednesday and Thursday. It’s cool that we have a lot of Southern California-based companies that we work with and this is an opportunity to go visit them before we start racing on Friday.”
What do you expect to see during your visit the Haas Automation headquarters?
“I’m really looking forward to visiting the Haas Automation headquarters. It’s always a treat to have an owner like Gene Haas take you around his personal business and learn more about where his success has been rooted over the years. Gene is a car guy, too. I grew up watching my dad work with CNC machines and now, to see how they are developed and how they are made, is really a marvel. The engineering that goes into the machines and the people who run the machines – they truly are unique and very educated.”
How much influence do Haas CNC machines have on your car each weekend?
“The engines that we get from Hendrick Motorsports each week, I would say, are about 75-percent built with components that are made on Haas CNC machines. Hundreds of little add-on parts are built with Haas CNC machines that add to the success of Stewart-Haas Racing throughout the season.”
What are you going to need for qualifying at Fontana?
“You are going to want a clean lap. Fontana is going to be a little different than some of the other tracks we’ve visited so far because it chews up the tire so fast that you’re going to be one (lap) and done. You’re not going to have much of a chance to improve your lap time so, therefore, this will almost go back to more of the old-style of qualifying where you just go get that one lap in and, hopefully, you make the top-12. And, you’re going to be slipping and sliding around like you’re on banana peels if you make that final 12. It will really be a competition to see who can slide it around there the best to win the pole. So, I’ve been anticipating this qualifying run for a little while, now.”
How big are restarts at Fontana?
“Restarts at Fontana are a high-speed chess match with drafting – a low lane and high lane. You can get super-aggressive and try to gamble, but it can bite you if you don’t clear the guy, or the group of guys, that you’re trying to pass. The cars fan out and it’s three or four wide and it’s a very exciting track on restarts. If we could simulate restarts at Fontana for a half of a fuel run, that would be the excitement that I think NASCAR and the fans would want to see.”