Busch finds common ground with crew chief Tony Gibson
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The transporter looks quite different than what Kurt Busch is accustomed to at the race track.
Instead of walking into the traditional red, black and white Haas hauler, the former NASCAR Sprint Cup champ’s trackside office is now neon green with Danica Patrick emblazoned on the side.
While the drivers are different, nothing has changed inside of the No. 10 transporter – including the dressing room still bearing a star with the letter “D” in the middle – and that’s just fine with Busch.
Although he’s been aligned with crew chief Tony Gibson for less than a week, Busch is already enjoying a fresh start with the new No. 41 Haas Automation team. His interaction with the affable Gibson is quite different from his relationship with former freshman crew chief Daniel Knost, who now oversees Patrick's effort.
“It’s refreshing,” says Busch of Gibson’s old school management-style. “It’s what I’m used to. Having his leadership and years of experience already has a calming effect on me.”
Busch qualified fourth for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 – the best of the four Stewart-Haas Racing teams. He felt his Haas Chevy exhibited “good runs all the way through” time trials due to “big changes" prior to the exercise. Overall, it was a good first day of competition for Busch and the team.
It felt good to get that first day under our belt.
“We were able to advance through all three rounds and really put up a good fight in the final round,” Busch said. “We almost had a shot at the pole, we ended up a little tight in turn four, and that brought us home fourth.
“A great day all the way around for the first time with Tony Gibson, the engineers and everyone on this Haas Automation Chevy. It felt good to get that first day under our belt.”
Busch maintained a top 10 presence on the speed chart during second practice with a lap of 193.680mph. Carl Edwards topped the session with a lap of 196.342 mph. In Happy Hour, Busch was 13th (191.517mph) on the speed chart and his time improved throughout practice. Jimmie Johnson led final practice with a lap of 193.791 mph.
The team started the week with a two-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway which Gibson described as “awesome”. The opportunity afforded Gibson and Busch to establish a communicative pattern, build a notebook, work on race and qualifying trim and for the next three races.
Every lap, it’s like it’s the checkered so we’re having to do more adjusting than him because of the speed that he runs, than what we’re used.
“It’s been really good so far,” Gibson said. “The test at Homestead got us all warm and fuzzy coming here. We learned some things down there that helped us here handling-wise. Some things is qualifying trim during the segments, we worked on that down there. It was all a good, positive deal.
“Obviously, he’s a really aggressive race car driver. Every lap, it’s like it’s the checkered so we’re having to do more adjusting than him because of the speed that he runs, than what we’re used. But it’s been a positive. It’s been great. The feedback has been really, really good. You don’t have to search a lot for information on what he needs – he’ll tell you what he needs. It’s up to you to find it.”
The next chapter
Gibson acknowledges that there is still work to do for Sunday, but he feels that Busch has a top-five car.
Along with the team, Busch inherited Gibson-built cars as well. The skins have simply been re-wrapped to showcase the Haas colors. When asked if there was a different feel to the ride, Busch joked, “Yeah, they stick like glue.” Seriously though, Gibson understands that the team’s success will be predicated on the driver’s comfort.
“The overall balance of the car, I like how the four tires communicate with each other and the fact that we’re using all four the same,” Busch said. “Whereas I might have had cold spots on the tires before and we weren’t using the tires the proper way. I feel like if you’re using all four tires, then there’s going to be better grip, better speed.
“The issue in this game in this day and age is that you have to have everything at 100 percent. Team communication is growing, but we’re not on the top levels of a 4 car, a 48 car, a 24 or a 2 – all those guys. But that’s our goal and to get there in a timely manner.”