HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 12, 2012) – The good news for Kyle Busch is that the last time he raced a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, he ended the day by hoisting the winner’s trophy there for the first time.
In contrast to Las Vegas native Busch’s previous 12 Sprint Cup starts at the 2-mile oval that sits approximately 90 miles southwest of Detroit, during which he posted just one top-five finish and led just 88 laps, Busch’s 2011 assault on Michigan International Speedway netted his maiden win in the Irish Hills in August, a third-place finish in June and 81 laps led in the two events.
As the driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared Toyota Camry heads back to Michigan for the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday, an offseason track resurfacing will have Busch, along with crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire No. 18 team, working hard to adjust to the blazing-fast track conditions facilitated by the new pavement.
Busch, Rogers and the SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared team got a head start on the learning process in April as they were among four teams that participated in a Goodyear tire test on the new surface.
After spending two extra days on-track at another newly resurfaced facility last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the No. 18 team has an especially short turnaround with extra practice sessions Thursday at Michigan so teams could begin adjusting to the vastly increased grip.
The No. 18 team had just a little more than 24 hours from when the hauler arrived from Pocono at the JGR shop in Huntersville, N.C., before it was time to load the SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared Toyota back on the truck for the trek up to Michigan.
But few – if any – individuals in the NASCAR garage are known to work harder than Rogers, Busch and the No. 18 team when it comes to race preparation. As the Beastie Boys so eloquently put it many years ago, there certainly will be “No Sleep till Brooklyn” as the talented Busch and his troops work this week to back up their Michigan win last August.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
After participating in one day of the two-day tire test at Michigan in April, what do you expect this weekend?
“I expect it to be fast. With a new surface, there’s always a lot of grip. Obviously, it’s going to be warmer than what it was back in April for the tire test, so it might not be as fast as it was then. I had missed the first day, and the other guys had already run the day before. So I’m out there, and I’m thinking that I was really fast. I was running 37.80 (lap times) and I asked my guys what those other guys were running, and they told me they’re in the 37.20s right now. I couldn’t believe it. But if you are just a little bit loose there, now you are nervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck. It was really intense. We finally got the car tightened up enough where the car wasn’t nervous, and then it didn’t make me nervous and we were fine. But you are hauling there, now, for sure.”
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?
“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But with the new surface, there is a ton of grip now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps, and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now the tire wear is all out the window, and the racetrack is going to be very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it. For me, coming to Michigan, I tend to run well there. For whatever reason, I haven’t had too many great finishes to show for it until last year, and then we had a great year there and got our first win in August.”
You had four consecutive top-five finishes, followed by consecutive engine issues the last two races. How do you handle the disappointment of the last couple of weeks?
“It’s very frustrating. These guys here at Joe Gibbs Racing and everybody on this team deserves better than this. It’s unfortunate that we just aren’t getting the results we need because Dave (Rogers) and the guys have been working hard and bringing good cars to the racetrack. We just haven’t been able to figure out what has caused our problems the last two weeks. I know a lot of people are working hard to get it figured out. All we can do is keep working hard on our racecars like we have been and we can get back to those top-five finishes.”
DAVE ROGERS, Crew Chief of the No. 18 SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on the new surface at Michigan after participating in the tire test there in April?
“The speeds are very fast. They did a really nice job repaving Michigan. The facility looks great. It’s pretty much what we expected as soon as they said they were going to repave Michigan. We knew we were going to have a lot of grip, and we knew it would be fast. It didn’t disappoint us. It did have grip, and it was fast.”
With the speeds, is Michigan now another superspeedway?
“The drivers still have to lift – not a whole lot, but they do have to get out of the gas. They still have to touch the brake. That’s the difference between Talladega and Daytona. At those places, you’re not. I don’t think you’ll see NASCAR put a (restrictor) plate on the cars. They are going to let the boys race, as they say.”
How is the communication between the crew chiefs when one of the three JGR teams participates in a tire test?
“I think the relationships are in place where we’re going to be just as tight whether we’re testing or not testing but obviously relying on each other’s notebooks. The good thing about the repaves is that NASCAR usually does have an open test so we do get to read what the 20 (Joey Logano) worked on in their tire test at Pocono, but we actually have quite a few hours of testing on our own prior to the event, as well. Your teammates’ notebooks are great and it’s better than nothing, but every driver is a little bit different. They all want something just a little bit different, so we try to learn from each other. But we have to be careful not to carbon-copy our cars. We have to make our cars specific to our driver and his needs.”