Kurt Busch was the top-finishing Chevrolet driver for the second straight week, while picking up his second top-10 finish at his home track.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished fifth in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after leading 23 laps. But Busch surprised many in the way in which he paced the field, holding off Kevin Harvick and others while on older tires.
Busch had been left on track by crew chief Matt McCall at the end of Stage 2. The decision moved him to the front of the field for the start of the final stage.
“I was really happy that we were able to stay out long,” said Busch. “Around the second stage, we didn’t get any stage points today, but it positioned us well to make a run at the checkers, and we got fifth.
“I’m really happy with two top fives to start the year. We’re playing it smart. We haven’t had any penalties, and we will just keep chipping away at it.”
Busch said his No. 1 team was a nine on a 10 scale on Sunday afternoon, with those who finished ahead of him – Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick – being 10s. Judging by what he saw, Busch said his team has their work cut out for them.
But he is off to a fast start with his new team after moving to CGR from Stewart-Haas Racing. After a 25th-place finish in Daytona, Busch rallied for a podium spot (third) in Atlanta after earning points in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Now with another top five after Las Vegas, Busch sits 10th in points.
“I expected to have good moments, and the consistency of the car is there,” Busch said of his new team, who had just two top-five finishes in all of 2018 with Jamie McMurray.
There is still work to do though, he says.
“Little bit of aero, little bit of engine, little bit of handling,” said Busch. “But right now, we have fundamentally started the season as strong as we can with not making mistakes, and we’re having fun.”