Kurt Busch determined to win

So far in 2013, Kurt Busch has been knocking on the door to victory. Now, he might be ready to kick it in.

Busch, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS, will start Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 from the outside pole next to Carl Edwards. It will be Busch’s third front-row start in the last five NASCAR Sprint Cup races and in the last seven races, the 2004 series champion has moved from 24th to 15th in points.

In practice at Michigan International Speedway, Busch was blisteringly fast: He was second in Friday’s opening round of practice and on top of the leaderboard in both Saturday’s first session and the final Happy Hour session.

About the only thing left for Busch to do now is win a race, something he hasn’t done in 56 starts, the longest streak of his career.

Busch said he and the team are close to putting it all together.

“We’ve just got to step into the race, and that’s where we’ve got to close the deal,” Busch said Friday at MIS. “We haven’t been as strong as we’ve needed to be in the last section of the race, like after the last pit stop or with two pit stops to go, that’s where we have to find a little bit more improvement. But otherwise, these Furniture Row guys are phenomenal, and we’re knocking on the door.”

Already this year, Busch has as many top-five finishes in 14 starts as Furniture Row had in its first 199 starts dating back to 2005. Busch is appreciative of what his crew has done this year.

“This team has done a tremendous job back at the shop with the shaker rig, the pull-down rig, tying that into the wind-tunnel notes,” Busch said. “There are a couple of guys working on this car that are just doing a phenomenal job — better than I’ve seen at a lot of places with the combination of speed. And it’s cool because in our team debriefs afterwards, we can honestly all look at each other and not have to sweep any information under the rug. We can all understand what led to what and why we didn’t deliver a better performance. And it’s just great to be on the same page with all these guys. It’s just a good feeling.”

Busch is also pleased that the team’s technical partnership with Richard Childress Racing is paying dividends.

“Everybody at RCR has been rooting us on and we’re there trying to push them and there are new things that we’re bringing to the racetrack and each of the teams are working on little things,” said Busch. “They consider us a fourth car. And so it’s great to have those teammate notes, so to speak, with (Kevin) Harvick and (Paul) Menard and (Jeff) Burton. That way I can look at notes and understand things quickly.”

And that feeling is mutual, even with Harvick, who over the years has had some serious on-track feuds with Busch.

“Listening to Kurt Busch in the meetings is something that adds to our team,” Harvick said after winning last month’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Not taking anything away from Todd (Berrier, crew chief), all the guys working on the car. But the way that Kurt drives — hard — he has good feedback. To me that’s been the thing that really has helped the 78 car become relevant for RCR and myself, is you can go over and talk to him and look at his data, and it’s real and it’s fast. It has really helped what we’ve been doing.”

“We’re all working really close together,” added team owner Richard Childress. “Our engines are running really well. I couldn’t be more proud of our whole organization and what the 78 brings to the table.”