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Gene Haas validated by Kurt Busch victory

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Gene Haas believes his decision to hire Kurt Busch was validated by Busch's victory last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

''I look like a genius this week, don't I?'' Haas said Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The founder of Stewart-Haas Racing hired Busch in August for a new fourth car that he funds out of pocket. Haas wanted Busch to drive a Haas Automation-sponsored car because he believed the driver could take his company to Victory Lane.

The Haas organization scored just one top-10 finish in 284 starts with 12 different drivers before Tony Stewart joined as co-owner in 2009. Since Stewart's arrival, SHR has 21 wins and one Sprint Cup championship.

But Haas badly wanted to see his own name in Victory Lane and hired Busch last summer while Stewart was recovering from his broken leg.

Only when Busch got the win, in the sixth race of the season, Haas wasn't at the track to celebrate.

''It looked great on TV,'' he joked. ''It was one of those things that I've been doing this for a long time and finally saw it happen, and then you just go, `Wow, I missed that one.' ''

Haas said Busch's victory has sparked an interest in his machine company, which is one of the largest in the world.

''Just this win, we've had such an interest in what we do, the raising of awareness of who Haas Automation is in terms of the machine tool builder, that I know it's already paid back,'' he said. ''I know we already sold a lot of machines because of it. We had a couple salespeople go `Oh, I just sold 10 machines because of this win.' I don't know, maybe there's some truth to that. But I think what it does is it brings the awareness level of who are up.''

Haas is also excited for Busch's attempt next month to run both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Busch is just the fourth driver to attempt the 1,100 miles of racing in one day, and Haas supports the feat, which he likened to climbing Mount Everest.

He said he'll attend the Indy 500 and is pulling for Busch to finish both races - ''it's more the adventure than what the results are going to be. You really can't expect to win both of them.'' Although Busch's win at Martinsville likely guarantees him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and gives him breathing room in trying to make it from Indianapolis to North Carolina in time for the start of the 600, Haas said he still wants Busch in his car for the NASCAR race later that day.

''Because that's the challenge. The challenge is to do both races on the same day,'' Haas said. ''If I told him he could stay in Indy, he'd say `You're crazy. I'm going. I'm going to be in Charlotte.' Half the part of Charlotte is obviously winning, but the other part is just getting to the track and competing. That's the thing with Kurt - the guy doesn't want to finish second. I know that.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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