Auto racing insider

Kurt Busch has many reasons to want to win a Cup race this season, especially now that he’s led his single-car Furniture Row Racing team to a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But he said on this week’s NASCAR teleconference that there’s another reason he wants to be at the center of attention after a race. It’s because of the summer “bucket list” of his girlfriend Patricia Driscoll’s 8-year-old son Houston.

“He had a summer-long list of things he wanted to do — ride his go-kart, go camping, fishing, just things that an 8-year-old would want to do, play video games,” Busch said, adding that there was one request, bungee jumping, that was dropped from the list and another that didn’t happen.

“One thing that I didn’t get done for him that he had on his list, he wanted to go to victory lane.”

Busch didn’t make that happen in the 26-race regular season, but he did get the youngster in the limelight by making the Chase and participating in the ceremonies at Richmond International Raceway.

“I felt like getting him to the Chase stage was that moment for us to share together, so I lived up as a stepdad to his expectations,” Busch said.

There are still some chances to complete Houston’s bucket list, beginning this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Busch is a three-time Cup winner. And this weekend is one in which the custody schedule finds the youngster with his mom and Busch.

Busch was poised to win at New Hampshire in July. He qualified second and led a race-high 102 laps, but a crash knocked him out of contention.

“No doubt, we had the car to beat,” Busch said. “But I got tangled with some other cars, and the incident sent our Furniture Row Chevy to the garage for repairs. Instead of the possibility of winning the race, we ended up (31st).”

Busch is sixth in the standings after a fourth-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

“We got off to a good start in Chicago, and it’s one down and nine to go,” he said.

Outside the Chase: It looks as if rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is hitting his stride just in time to steal a little thunder from the 13 Chase drivers in the final nine races of the Sprint Cup season.

Stenhouse’s hot streak started three weeks ago when he won his first Sprint Cup pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He followed that with his first top-10 Sprint Cup finish, 10th at Richmond, and then finished eighth Sunday at Chicagoland.

“It has been a good couple of weeks,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep that momentum going. We aren’t in the Chase, but we are acting like these last 10 races are a Chase for us, and we want the best finishes we can down the stretch.”

Stenhouse said his improved fortunes are more because of experience on his part and better communication with his crew chief Scott Graves, especially when it comes to figuring out how to tune his No. 17 Ford so it will be fast at the finish.

“I think it has been a combination of sitting down with Scott and getting better ideas of what we need to do at the end of races,” he said. “We have been getting better track position and hanging on to it at the end.”

Sprints at Senoia: The Fayetteville-based United Sprint Car Series will return to Senoia Raceway on Friday and Saturday nights for the Senoia Summer Nationals IV, which originally was scheduled for Aug. 20-21, but was postponed because of rain.

This weekend’s event is the season finale for Senoia and will include races for Senoia’s weekly divisions including the popular Late Model series.

NAPA leaves Waltrip Racing: The manipulation of the finishing order of the Sprint Cup circuit’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway by Michael Waltrip Racing has cost the team its sponsorship of the No. 56 Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr.

NAPA, in a statement on its Facebook page, said that “after thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 31, 2013. NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.”

The manipulations to try to get Truex in the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup led to Truex being removed from the Chase field, penalties for the three teams involved and the suspension of the team’s general manager Ty Norris.

Michael Waltrip Racing issued its own statement Friday: “There is no doubt, the story of Michael Waltrip Racing begins with NAPA Auto Parts, but there are many more chapters yet to be written. MWR has the infrastructure and support of Toyota for three teams plus three Chase-caliber, race-winning drivers. With the support of our corporate partners we are preparing to field three teams in 2014.”

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