Quick Stats: Kurt Busch Daytona 500/NASCAR Champion
Daily Driver: 2017 Ford Expedition (Kurt’s rating: 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina
Car he learned to drive in: 1964 Volkswagen Beetle
First car bought: 1995 Chevrolet Silverado
Although happenstance would have it that NASCAR champ Kurt Busch would one day get to own and drive any Ford he pleases in addition to the No. 41 Ford Fusion race car for the Stewart-Haas team, he owns some unique Fords; it’s a collection that’s inspired in part by his dad’s love of 1932 Fords.
Busch has six 1932 Fords, which make up almost half of his collection. “[My dad and I] share a few different ’32 Fords. He doesn’t want to actually take ownership because then mom would get upset for having too many. So he blames it on me,” Busch says, laughing.
He rates them between a 7 and 9 on a 10-point scale and explains that each Ford offers something different. “One’s a roadster, one is traditional, non-chop top, one is an extreme chop top, one’s a side window,” he says. “They all have their own distinct level of rebuild as well as traditional items left onto the car. My dad’s just very indecisive when it comes to his ’32 Fords. So I figured he’d top out at seven one day because there’s only seven days a week.”
Busch grew up helping his dad work on these cars and recalls his dad selling his first Ford around the time he was going to college. “To me, I didn’t know all the finances of how things were set up in our family, but I always thought, ‘That car sold, I went to college,’ and I’m like, ‘Man, that probably was my tuition,’” he says. “So I always had this mental plan to re-gift him someway, somehow, and it worked out with getting in racing and having a lot of Ford connections. I hope to one day go to Bonneville Salt Flats with him and do one of the divisions in an old ’32 Ford.”
His dad, who was also once a racer, goes to car shows around the country. The two were together for Father’s Day in Pomona, California, where they bought another ’32 Ford. “He talked me into that one,” he says with a laugh. “I should’ve been the father figure and told my dad, ‘We have to sell one before we can buy one.’”
Although Busch bought his wife a Mercedes-AMG GLE63 with a twin turbo, his own daily driver is a 2017 Ford Expedition. He gives it an 8.5 rating and likes its reliability.
“They did good with the styling for as big of an SUV that it is, and the ride quality to me is always important,” Busch says. “It’s easy to navigate the buttons, and the driver ergonomics of the car feel nice when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat.”
He’s had quite a few Fords. “My first professional contract when I signed on with NASCAR was with Ford and had a 2001 Ford Mustang, and I still have it today,” he says. “I chose to buy that one after that contract was up, but I’ve been through different Expeditions, different Explorers, F-150s.”
2001 Ford Mustang
“I put in a Roush stage 3 kit on it, so I took it from a GT Mustang to a Roush stage 3,” he says. “At the time it had 400 hp and felt like a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Driving it the other day, it’s funny how we all get spoiled with GPS in the car or satellite radio. The headlights didn’t turn off. When I got out of the car, it was dinging at me. I was like, ‘Oh, these are the little creature comforts that we’ve become so accustomed to.’ And that car isn’t all that old, so it’s fun to jump back in it, and even other cars that I have in my collection. … A 2001 Mustang on a scale of 1 to 10 today is more like a 6.”
2005 Ford GT
“One of my favorites that was a gift from Edsel Ford II was a 2005 Ford GT, and I treat it like a trophy; it only has 97 miles on it,” Busch says. “To me the symbolic value of why he gifted me the car was when I won the championship in NASCAR and was driving a Ford, so for that to be a gift, I treat it like a trophy and never put miles on it. It felt special, something from Edsel.”
Busch gives it a perfect 10. “When I drove it a few times, it’s a pure sense of American heritage in motorsports,” he says.
Most of Busch’s cars get driven more than that, he says: “They’re all in good condition where you can just fire them up and go. I have a few different ’70s muscle cars: a ’70 Challenger, a ’69 Camaro.”
Busch drives his cars in good weather as well as when he’s back in North Carolina and not on a racetrack in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He has his own little personal race shop and garage that’s a few miles down the road.
“I try to drive them as often as I can, and I have a couple mechanics who are always working; whether rebuilding an old race car or working on another contract car for a client, we’re always working on cars at my shop,” he says. “We do some contract work for clients, and we have our lineup of different cars within my shop.”
The shop is pretty much by word of mouth. “It’s not like a full machine where we’re streamlining stuff in and out,” he says. “It’s just a hobby. I’ll go to some of the Barrett-Jackson auto auctions to sell or to buy and to look around, and I try to keep up with different trends.”
Car he learned to drive in
Busch learned to drive in a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle his dad helped him buy for $500.
“We bought it when I was about 15, and it was in pretty rough shape,” he says. “Then we spent that summer rebuilding it and getting it ready, and he taught me how to drive. We put some paint on it and literally took it to my driving test when I turned 16. I was a junior in high school that year with a ’64 Volkswagen bug. Still have it today.”
He learned to drive in Las Vegas, where he grew up, on relatively easy suburban streets. “The first thing I did, I got my driver’s license and my buddy filed in and we went cruising up and down the Strip,” he recalls.
When his dad taught him to drive in the Volkswagen, he was just starting out racing and knew about the clutch and shifting. “When he was teaching me, I remember my first time stalling it when he told me to turn right quickly,” he says. “I thought we were coming up to this intersection, and he said, ‘No, no, no, I want you to turn into the bank right here,’ and I was almost past the turn in and I was trying to slow down and then I forgot to push the clutch in and stalled it trying to turn into the bank parking lot.”
Busch has held onto that first car for the shared experience spent in it. “It was easy to keep because it was a cheap car, and we put a lot of work on it as father and son,” he says. “When I was little, I wasn’t making a big impact when I was helping him work on some of his ’32 Fords, but with that ‘64 Bug, that was a good education in how to build a car and how to work on everything, and it was great father and son time.”
First car bought
“When I was about 20, we were racing so often, we needed another truck to get to the race tracks,” Busch says.
Around 1998 or 1999 Busch bought his first vehicle, a 1995 Chevrolet Silverado with an extended cab off a friend for $10,000.
“We went to the bank and had to get an approval,” he says. “I paid $5,000 down of cash and then got a loan for $5,000, and that was my first loan that I took out. Had to manage the car payment, insurance, and just coming back from college, so there was a lot going on. And then the adulthood importance that went along with that truck.”
Busch kept it for a while and then sold it to another friend who needed a truck, for $5,000.
Favorite road trip
“When I was a kid we traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway a few times to San Francisco all the way from Las Vegas,” Busch recalls fondly. “When we were racing, I loved the road trip on I-70 through the Colorado Rockies. Just going through the mountains and you get the elevation changes, the scenic view on I-70.”
On the East Coast, closer to home, there’s a road in the Charlotte area Busch likes to drive purely for fun. “It’s to the west of Charlotte; it’s fairly close to Asheville, North Carolina: the Tail of the Dragon. A lot of motorcycle guys love that ride,” he says. “I’ve got a Dodge Viper that I drove on it years ago. It’s always fun. If there’s a day here or there where it’s not far from the house and hit the drive, grab lunch on the other side and then come back.”
Even though Busch drives for a living, there’s something different about being on the open road.
“Everything’s relaxed and yet I feel the car underneath me and different turns. You feel the front tires, you can feel the rear tires if you’re accelerating too hard. It’s always fun to learn a car’s limit in a situation.”
Sometimes he’ll rent out a road course such as Virginia International Raceway or Road Atlanta to take some of his own cars “and really go stretch their legs,” he says.
For more information and news on the 2018 NASCAR race season that starts next month visit www.kurtbusch.com.
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