Kyle Busch - Keeping it Simple
It’s well documented that Kyle Busch isn’t a big fan of finishing second or third in pretty much any race he enters. But, heading into the 21st NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season this weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the talented 26-year-old and his team are keeping it simple as they all have their eyes focused on the big picture – the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.
...anytime you get off base, it can kind of mess you up.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) left Pocono happy after his first visit of the year. It was one of his strongest runs at the tricky 2.5-mile triangle that netted a top-three finish from the 34th spot on the starting grid. Busch has made it no secret that Pocono has given him fits more times than not during his Sprint Cup career, and he also knows that it’s of supreme importance to keep knocking down top-five finishes in order to contend with five-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson when the year is all said and done.
So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains just seven weeks later for Sunday’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire M&M’s team will look to take the very same approach that yielded that third-place finish the first time around.
While the two annual Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono turn out to be very similar, temperatures typically tend to be warmer the second time around, making the big, flat triangle a little more slippery in August compared to the June event. But, despite the slight change in track conditions, Busch hopes to take the same mindset to work this weekend as he did in June. While many other teams are getting to be in desperation mode as they seek ways to make it into the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, Busch and his M&M’s team have the luxury of focusing on keeping the consistency it takes to be a championship contender as their three wins virtually assures them a chase berth.
So, as Busch looks to repeat his June magic at Pocono this weekend, he and his teammates are very much looking to keep things simple in an effort to add more positive momentum as they continue to hit their stride with the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, which starts at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., in September, just around the corner.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Will your team do much experimenting, at all, leading up to the Chase, considering you have three wins?
“Not really. I think our biggest thing is just going about it the way we have, already, and just bringing things to the racetrack that we know work well. I think, anytime you get off base, it can kind of mess you up. It’s kind of the old-age term where you ‘go back to basics.’ That seems to be where we always find ourselves – just concentrating on hitting everything the right way and making sure that you don’t try to do anything too far out of the box.”
Does your approach change heading to Pocono for the second time this season?
“A little bit, not much. The biggest thing you change for Pocono, it’s just a little bit hotter. It gets a little bit slick. Your lap times will be a little bit slower, so you just have to drive it a little bit differently. Besides all that, really there’s not much change there. I hope we can take that same approach we did in June with our M&M’s Camry this weekend. You run the racetrack as similarly as you can. You still work on the same things. All the same things seem to be a little bit more escalated because the grip level isn’t as high.”
Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What’s the most difficult part of the track for you?
“The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest – turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8 to 10 mph slower than the guy on your outside, and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”
What effect do you think this season’s new points structure is having on the championship chase?
“It seems like it’s a lot easier for someone to have a bad day. A bad day used to not knock you back as far as what it does now. I’ve had three bad days this year. The first bad day I had, I went from leading the points to 14th. The second bad day I had, I went from fourth in points to 10th. Then, the last bad day I just had, I went from leading the points back to fifth. It’s so hard to get yourself back up the ladder and it takes you so much more time than it used to, so it’s just really hard. Through the Chase, it’s going to be important to not have a bad day.”
Will there be a point where desperation sets in for some drivers trying to get into the Chase due to the new format?
“I think it will, for some. We saw a lot of guys gambling at Indy last weekend, so I would expect to see more of it. I think, for those guys who are on the bubble – I think from 10th to 11th is like four or six points, or something like that – it’s pretty close. You’ll probably see eighth through 13th probably in pretty good desperation which, typically, you see every year but more so this year because it’s either top-10 or it’s wins. So, if you’re sitting 12th and you can get a win, you get yourself knocked back in. It’s going to be important for those guys. I don’t know that you’re going to see any craziness happen, I hope, but who knows. This is NASCAR racing at its best, so we’ll see what happens.”
By: joe gibbs racing