Kurt Busch's career has taken some eye-opening turns, with the former Sprint Cup champion now driving for his third team in less than 12 months, hoping to close the season strong in the No. 78 car for Furniture Row Racing.
He made the Chase last season driving for Penske, but departed after the season to join Phoenix Racing, only to leave last month to run the final six races for Furniture Row.
Halfway through those six races, Busch is coming off his best finish in the No. 78, a 15th-place finish at Martinsville. He is signed through next season, and views these final few races as a testing ground for a full run next year.
How tough has it been to go through two team changes this year, especially the last one in midseason?
It's been tough, but it was a change that needed to happen, so I was looking forward to it. I had been working behind the scenes with the other team for months, and there's a bridge that gets built. So it wasn't a tough transition when I made the move.
There have been little things that happened this year that, in my mind, are successes. They might not show up on paper, and it doesn't bother me that they don't show up on paper. There are lessons I've been taught, and some that I taught myself. Now I have a better understanding of the sport and a greater appreciation of it.
What kind of lessons have you learned?
Simple things. Just an appreciation of getting the car to the track every week. When you hear a name like Roush or Penske, you just assume it gets done. Now, with my sleeves rolled up, I'm in there working and talking and making sure all those little things are getting done. Some of those things, I was naive about when I was younger. There were times I would ask a guy in a certain department, ‘Hey, why is this certain thing taking so long?' Now I know.
How much of your previous 12 seasons of experience can you apply to the race car when you get to a track like Texas, where you've run multiple races?
There are some details that transfer, but it's still different. It's almost like you wish there were 36 hours in a day right now. You're just trying to cram, like you're studying for finals. But you still have to break away, so you don't weigh yourself down too much. Sometimes, you can get too anchored in what you've done in the past. You have to adapt to the future.
What are your goals with Furniture Row as the season closes?
The goal is to get the unknowns taken care of. Todd Berrier is a great crew chief and we're working on our communication. Team communication is the biggest thing. At the shop or at the track, people have to be able to read each other. These races give us the chance to operate as a team without any consequence.
How much has the Chase changed since you won the first one back in 2004?
The Chase changed the game dramatically. It took a couple years to see a pattern. It created the regular season and the group of races for a playoff, so suddenly, you could have a mediocre season, but win a couple races and get yourself in the playoff, and then anything can happen.
There's definitely strategy to each of the changes, and the teams that come out on top are the ones that adjust best to those changes. For instance, you can't test leading up to certain races. So the April race at Texas is that much more important, so that you can gather information to be prepared for the November race.
You won at Texas in 2009. Is it a track you enjoy?
I like Texas. It's big and fast. You've got to work on the car setup to be able to handle the aerodynamic and mechanical side, because it pushes you on both. It can be tough to balance both of those, so it's important to be prepared.