Chevrolet has had a memorable past few weeks in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS). There has been a wide array of stories during this time highlighting a potential shift in power towards the latter stages of NASCAR’s regular season. A lot of firsts have occurred. Alex Bowman secured his first MENCS win, Justin Haley nabbed his first MENCS win at Daytona with Chevy finishing with four out of the top five drivers. Most recently, seasoned veteran, Kurt Busch, ended his win drought with his first win with his new team, Chip Ganassi Racing, at Kentucky Speedway. Has this been a stroke of luck or is the potential of the Chevrolet drivers finally coming to fruition?
Last weekends race at Kentucky Speedway was perhaps the most exciting finish this year. Two brothers fighting it out in Overtime while running two wide for almost the entirety of the final two laps. The green-white-checkered finish was a perfect crescendo for an all around entertaining spectacle. The new aero package coupled with other changes including the increased traction enabled drivers to feel comfortable racing side by side. Both Kyle and Kurt Busch looked to have little issue driving two wide against each other and the determination of the victor came down to who got the better run out of the turn.
It would be one thing to see the same team win three straight races in a Chevy car, but these three wins were by three separate MENCS teams. Yes, Justin Haley’s victory at Daytona might have been down to strategy rather than pure race pace, but Kurt Busch was in prime position to take the checkered flag in the rain shortened race prior to the lightening strike.
Kurt Busch’s win served as an important reminder as to just how underrated he is. Busch has undeniably been through his fair share of trials and tribulations, but he has consistently been able to perform to his Championship level pedigree. Chip Ganassi Racing also vitally needed a victory to reinvigorate a storied race team that has gone astray over recent seasons. Saturday night’s win was the team’s first since Kyle Larson scored four victories back in 2017.
A win was just a matter of time for Busch. He has 11 top ten finishes in 19 races this season. Busch also has just one less top five finish with five than he did in all 36 races last season. His average finish has increased in each of the past three seasons. In 2017, Busch had an average finish of 16.5, which then jumped to 12.1 in 2018, and in 2019, Kurt Busch now has an average finish of 9.6. After last weekend’s win coupled with an all around impressive season for Chip Ganassi Racing, it would be surprising if Busch’s one year deal is reworked for the 2020 season. Back when the move was announced Busch expressed his confidence in joining Chip Ganassi Racing,
“This is a tremendous opportunity to go out and win races, to have a shot at the championship and to use my experience that I’ve gained over all these years with a group like Chip Ganassi Racing.”
This No. 1 team lacked experience heading into the season, but Busch’s experience has paid off in spades. He brought in an attitude into the team that fostered an atmosphere of aggressive and confidence that the hard work would lead to results.
NASCAR as a whole is the biggest winner from Chevrolet’s new found form. Having only three manufacturers in the series it is critical for a constant state of parody to exist. The changes that NASCAR has made to improve the racing has created a 46.6% increase in green-flag passes for the lead compared to last year. The quality of racing looks to have markedly improved and the revitalization of Chevrolet has made for a memorable 2019 NASCAR season.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) is the next stop on the NASCAR calendar as only seven races remain before the NASCAR Playoffs. Chevrolet has only managed one win in the past twelve races as NHMS dating back to 2012. Prior to that Chevy, won six consecutive races. Kurt Busch will look to build off of last weekend’s win and can now afford to take more risks since he has qualified for the Playoffs. Regardless, the racing will continue to intensify as drivers jockey for positions as they hunt for playoff bonus points as well as those looking to secure their first win this season. Expect yet another exciting race when the green flag waves on Sunday.