As the NASCAR Cup Series season has progressed into the playoffs, absences forced by COVID protocols have begun to become more and more of a factor for both drivers and crews alike. This weekend at Richmond Raceway, Kurt Busch will have to bear the brunt of that trend with several of the most-important members of his team unavailable.
According to a report by Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, the majority of Kurt Busch's pit crew will miss this weekend's race at Richmond due to COVID protocols related to contact tracing. The absences affect all the usual members of Busch's pit crew with the exception of his fueler.
Chip Ganassi Racing will replace Busch's usual over-the-wall crew with members of teammate Ross Chastain's pit crew, with Chastain in turn receiving a mix of pit crew members that usually service the Spire Motorsports No. 7 driven by Corey LaJoie and the StarCom Racing No. 00 driven by Quin Houff.
The major changes to Busch's pit crew are a less than ideal development, particularly given that Busch is among the drivers in the NASCAR playoff field. However, Busch has a significant gap over the cut line thanks to a strong sixth-place outing in last week's Southern 500 at Darlington. Busch currently sits fourth in the playoff standings, 26 points above the cutoff line for the round of 12.
Although Busch has won twice at Richmond in his career, first in the fall of 2005 and then again in the spring of 2015, he has not had exceptional success there in three years driving for Ganassi. Busch does not have a top 10 finish at Richmond in Ganassi equipment, with his best run being an 11th place finish in the spring of 2019. This past spring, Busch finished 13th at the track for the second time in a row.