When Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch joined Stewart-Haas Racing, there were those who thought it was going to be a debacle. Too many high-powered egos under one roof was their point. I, for one, couldn’t have disagreed more. I felt from the beginning this could turn into something special. So here we are with six races under our belt. Both Kevin and Kurt have already been to Victory Lane.
For Kurt to win Sunday at Martinsville and beat who everyone knows is the king of Martinsville Speedway, Jimmie Johnson, is a pretty big deal. Everyone knows the ups and downs that Kurt has gone through in his career. He has gone from the very top — winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship — to at one point not even knowing if he was going to have a job next year.
Now Kurt is back with an elite organization in Stewart-Haas Racing. He has the experience and the resources at his fingertips to make a lot of noise this year. It takes a lot of pressure off a driver and a team to already have a win this early in the season, because of the Chase implications. The key for this team, however, is going to be consistency.
Let’s face it: The first four races of the year were pretty ugly for this new team. Race No. 5 generated a great finish and now here in race No. 6 at Martinsville they spent their late afternoon celebrating a win. The reality is one win doesn’t make a season or mark you as a championship contender. What I am really interested in seeing is where these guys will be halfway through the season.
We’ve seen a lot of teams get a win and make it into the Chase. However, when the Chase starts, for whatever reason, that same team goes from contender to pretender. That’s where it gets a little dicey for a lot of those teams. Yes, making the Chase is a great accomplishment because there are so few teams that do. However, when it comes crunch time and time to actually go out there and win the championship, can you do it?
As we’ve seen these last few years, the key to winning the Chase is getting wins and top fives. That’s what it takes now. Just finishing in the top 10 every week in the Chase no longer gets it done. Right now after six races, Kurt and his gang need to be looking at that No. 88 car as a model to pattern themselves after. Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has a win and is clicking off top fives. That’s what it’s going to take come Chase time.
The goal for Kurt and his team, plus obviously all the teams that will make the Chase this year, is to time it to where they peak at Richmond in September, which is the last race in our regular season. Then the best 10 races of their season will be the 10 races that make up the Chase. That’s what someone like Kurt and his bunch should be focusing on after getting that huge win this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway.