2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion
Birthdate: Aug. 4, 1978
Birthplace: Las Vegas, Nevada
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Residence: Mooresville, NC / Washington D.C.
Marital Status: Single
Many have aspirations of being a racecar driver and competing at the sport’s highest level, but only a select few have the almost unexplainable ability – a sixth sense of sorts – to climb behind the wheel, compete among the best, and win.
Desire and skill are qualities Kurt Busch owns in spades. He parlayed those attributes into a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2004, and in 2014 Busch brings his title-winning abilities to Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the team that won the 2011 Sprint Cup championship with driver-owner Tony Stewart.
Busch is a 24-time race victor in NASCAR’s elite division and ranks 28th on the series’ all-time win list. At just 26, he won the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, securing the 2004 title by eight points over Jimmie Johnson.
In 2012 and 2013, Busch took on the challenge of competing for single-car organizations. While he did not visit victory lane during those two years prior to joining SHR, Busch added to his racing legacy by leading Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing to a berth in the coveted Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It was the first time in the 10-year history of the Chase a single-car team made NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
Busch’s tenacity behind the wheel and ability to defy the odds piqued the interest of Gene Haas, co-owner of SHR with Stewart. Haas, who founded Haas Automation in 1983 and has since grown it into the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world, became the owner and sponsor of Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
Busch’s racing career began in his hometown of Las Vegas. The second-generation driver got his start the way most youngsters do – tagging along with his father to racetracks dotted among the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
At just 7 years old, Busch was behind the wheel of a go-kart, and by 15, competed alongside his father, Tom, in Dwarf Car competition. In only his second start, Busch scored his first Dwarf Car win at Las Vegas Speedway Park. Busch didn’t complete his first full season as a driver until 1994, but he made an immediate impact, earning Nevada State Dwarf Car rookie of the year honors. That set the stage for a banner year in 1995, when at age 17, Busch won 10 consecutive races at 10 different tracks to secure the Nevada State Dwarf Car championship.
Recognizing Kurt’s talent, Tom Busch made the decision to move his son to Legends Cars and Hobby Stocks in 1996. By year’s end, Busch was the Hobby Stock track champion at Las Vegas Speedway Park and the Legends Cars Western States champion and Legends Cars national rookie of the year.
While Busch displayed his talent on the racetrack, he also displayed talent in the classroom, graduating near the top of his class at Durango High School. Racing was the priority, but Busch had a contingency plan in place if a career in motorsports didn’t work out – the pursuit of a pharmaceutical degree. Busch enrolled in classes at the University of Arizona, but racing quickly won out. After a year of school, he secured a job with the city of Las Vegas, where he constructed new water mains during the week and raced on the weekends.
Busch spent the latter part of the 1990s balancing school, work and racing. It was a balancing act that paid off.
By 1998, Busch was running full-time on the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour. He earned rookie of the year honors that season with one victory and promptly won the series championship in 1999 with six victories.
During that championship-winning season, Busch’s skill attracted the attention of successful NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, who decided to host driver auditions for a team he fielded in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The auditions were informally known as “The Gong Show,” and Roush invited Busch to participate. In a pivotal moment in Busch’s life, he won the audition and started competing for Roush in 2000. It ended up being a whirlwind year.
Busch started the 2000 season by scoring a second-place finish in the season-opening Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. He scored his first Truck Series win July 1 at The Milwaukee Mile and then added three more victories before the year was out, including two from the pole. In his rookie season, Busch finished second in the championship standings.
Although it was only one season, Roush saw all he needed to know that Busch was a star. Less than a year after hiring him to race in the Camping World Truck Series, Roush announced that Busch would succeed Chad Little as driver of his No. 97 car in the Sprint Cup Series. Barely a year removed from running Late Models on the Featherlite Southwest Tour, Busch was racing the No. 97 car in NASCAR’s elite division. Busch took over for Little in the final seven races of the 2000 season as he prepared for his full Sprint Cup season in 2001.
At just 22, Busch entered the 2001 Sprint Cup season as a rookie competing with the best drivers in the world. Busch didn’t make it to victory lane that year, but moments of brilliance flashed, including a pole-winning effort at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and a fifth-place finish in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
If there was any disappointment during the 2001 season, it was quickly forgotten in 2002 in what can only be described as a breakout year. Busch started the season by finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Less than two months later, he scored his first Sprint Cup win March 24 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch earned three more wins, all in the final five races of the season, en route to a third-place finish in the championship point standings.
The momentum of 2002 carried over into the early part of 2003 as Busch started the year with runner-up finishes at Daytona and North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. He found victory lane at Bristol for the second consecutive year, boosting him to second in the championship standings. But championship aspirations were derailed by a series of engine failures the team experienced later in the season. Busch finished the year with four wins, nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10s.
In 2004, NASCAR introduced the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, where after the season’s first 26 races, the top-10 drivers in points competed in a 10-race dash to the championship. Busch put his first step toward his title run in March with a third consecutive trip to Bristol’s victory lane. He followed it up with another win in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. When the series returned to New Hampshire in September for the first race of the Chase, Busch won again to stake his claim on the championship. With a fifth-place finish in the Chase’s third race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Busch took the point lead and never relinquished it.
Busch went into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with an 18-point lead over Johnson. After starting the race from the pole, Busch’s championship hopes were nearly ruined when he lost a tire early in the race while coming through turns three and four. Busch narrowly avoided the wall separating pit lane from the racetrack. Quick work by his team, along with Busch’s composure, helped to overcome the setback. Busch rallied to score a fifth-place finish and capture the title.
Busch started 2005 as the reigning Sprint Cup champion and spent the season performing as such, winning three races and collecting nine top-five finishes. During this season, Busch was presented with the opportunity to replace champion driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, who was retiring at the end of the year from Penske Racing. Although Busch was less than a year removed from having won a Sprint Cup championship with Roush Racing, Busch couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive for highly regarded team owner Roger Penske.
Unfortunately, the 2006 season didn’t go as Busch or Penske planned. The team struggled to find consistency on the track. Busch earned six poles but found victory lane only once. The inconsistency proved to be too big of a hurdle, and Busch did not qualify for the Chase for the first time in three seasons. Off the track, however, 2006 was a milestone year for Busch, as he created his own charitable foundation. The Kurt Busch Foundation, which focuses on children’s healthy living through sports, made a $1 million donation to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, allowing for an indoor sports park to be built, known as the Kurt Busch Superdome.
The 2007 season brought Busch back into the championship fray. Paired with crew chief Pat Tryson, Busch found victory lane twice in August – at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn – and he qualified for the Chase. Busch finished the season seventh in points and had high hopes for the following year. But the 2008 season mirrored the results Busch experienced in 2006 as the team once again lacked the consistency required to make a run for the championship. Busch scored only one win and finished 18th in points.
Busch returned to his winning ways in 2009. He scored a win early in the year at Atlanta Motor Speedway after leading an impressive 234 laps. Season-long consistency placed Busch firmly in the Chase, and he finished the season fourth in points.
It was more of the same in 2010 as Busch scored three wins, including a prestigious victory in the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He qualified for the Chase for the fifth time in his career, but the team was unable to duplicate its early-season performance once the Chase began. Busch finished the season 11th in points.
Busch started 2011 strong, where he nearly swept all of the main events that are a part of Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona. He won the Budweiser Shootout and his Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race. He came up short in the Daytona 500, finishing fifth, but momentum was high for the season. While he went on to win two races and qualify for the Chase, Busch sought change upon conclusion of the season.
Busch left Penske Racing and opted for the simple and straightforward environs of Phoenix Racing in 2012. The single-car team in Spartanburg, S.C., welcomed Busch, and he brought the best out of the team, earning a hard-fought third-place finish in June at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
Consistency was tough to find, and with six races remaining in the 2012 season, Busch moved to Furniture Row Racing. He ended the year on a strong note with three consecutive top-10 finishes, giving both Busch and his new team momentum heading into 2013.
Qualifying for the Chase was Busch’s goal in 2013. Busch and the single-car team from Colorado defied the odds and achieved that goal, proving Busch’s talent behind the wheel was as strong as ever. It was the seventh time he qualified for the Chase.
Despite not winning in 2013, Busch scored a pole at Darlington and finished second twice, at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. He finished the season 10th in points after 11 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes. Busch’s top-five tally was his most since 2002 when he scored 12 top-fives.
In 2014, Busch is back with a multi-car, championship-winning organization, and just as he seized his Sprint Cup opportunity in 2000, he aims to do so again at SHR.
But racing is not all that makes Busch special. His passion for assisting wounded service members is unparalleled. Together with Patricia Driscoll, Busch’s partner in life and president of the Armed Forces Foundation, the team has provided more than $75 million to wounded service members and their families. Busch and Driscoll continuously advocate for veteran care, and their work highlighting the issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have been nationally recognized by Congress and senior military leadership. Busch and Driscoll, in conjunction with the Armed Forces Foundation, co-authored a children’s book on dealing with injury, are in post-production of a PTSD documentary, and are finishing up filming of military educational videos regarding PTSD.