Just Win, Baby
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 7, 2012) – The late Al Davis, former owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, never missed a chance to tell his players to “Just Win Baby.”
While he’s widely known for his passion and commitment to winning any time he straps himself into a racecar, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will have a heightened sense of urgency to win starting with Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fingers Lakes 355k at The Glen on the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course.
Just five races remain before the cutoff for the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Busch finds himself outside the top-10 in the driver point standings and also currently without one of the two additional wild-card spots after a shattered brake rotor ruined his day Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11 and 12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event multiple drivers end up with the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne, who’s 11th in the point standings, also holds the top wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10 in points. Jeff Gordon, who’s 13th in points, vaulted into the other wild-card spot with his first win of the season Sunday at Pocono. Ryan Newman, Busch and his JGR teammate Joey Logano, who stand 14th, 15th and 17th in the points, respectively, also have one win apiece this season and have five remaining races to try and surpass Gordon in wins and tie Kahne. Busch sits just 12 points behind Gordon in the driver standings but a hefty 80 points behind 10th-place Clint Bowyer. Thus, winning is his most realistic chance to make the Chase by way of a wild-card berth.
The good news for Busch is that he’s won a Sprint Cup race at each of the remaining five venues on the “regular-season” calendar. In fact, the talented 27-year-old has rung up a whopping 12 total career wins at the next five races on the schedule. The Las Vegas native has five wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, four at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and one win apiece at Watkins Glen, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In addition to Busch’s 2008 win at Watkins Glen, he came agonizingly close to his second Sprint Cup win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course one year ago. After leading three times for a race-high 49 laps, Busch found himself in a three-wide situation on a late restart with Brad Keselowski and eventual race-winner Marcos Ambrose. Busch was forced to fall back and had to settle for a second-place finish after an otherwise dominant day by the M&M’s team. While he has proven his worth on road courses, in general, Busch will understandably be looking for redemption Sunday after being so close to winning at The Glen one year ago.
So, with just five races remaining before the Chase is set, Busch will channel his inner Al Davis by shooting for wins that will vault him into championship contention. Thankfully, his track record over the left and right turns at Watkins Glen provide the perfect opportunity to “Just Win Baby” and help rally Busch into the NASCAR playoffs.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses are pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging but, yet, a lot of fun. As you come down the front straightaway, it’s a downhill braking zone, so you feel like you don’t have to brake as soon as you need to, but you need to in order to get slowed down for turn one. You try to stay out and get a good, hard cut to the right for turn one and accelerate out of there as quickly as you can to get set up for the esses. (You) stay wide on the left and then turn into the right-hander in (turn) two – smooth. You’re getting out of the gas but not using too much brake, just rolling off in there. As the car gets in there and loads, it actually takes a really big set because that’s when you start going back uphill. So the car will load up and that’s when you get back in the gas really wide open. And then you have to turn back to the left and be able to roll back out of it just enough to make the car bend. And then you’re back wide open again to the right-side guardrail and just keeping it tight through the right-hander that we call turn five.”
What is the most challenging part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“I’d say the most challenging thing is the culmination of the inner loop and the carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess.”
How are you approaching the next five races in light of your current Chase situation?
“It’s so frustrating because we’ve had good racecars every week and, aside from Indy a few weeks ago, we just haven’t had anything go our way. That’s the way our season has gone. I don’t think we’ll be able to get back to the top-10, so we need to win to get in. We have some really good racetracks coming up. I think I’ve won at every one of them. I know Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys will keep bringing me good racecars. We just have to try to avoid problems and be there at the end.”
What does it take to be successful at Watkins Glen?
“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops, I’m unsure because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year. At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack.”
Will we see the same action on the road courses that we’ve been accustomed to over the last few years?
“I think you will. Yeah, you’ll see a little bit of it, especially on restarts and stuff like that. Watkins Glen is a place where we get a little bit more spread out throughout the run. Certainly, there are some areas where some guys can make some moves. Like, getting into turn one, you can out-brake somebody really good. Getting into the bus stop, you can out-brake somebody pretty good there, too. It’s like Marcos (Ambrose) did to me in 2009 in the Nationwide Series, and he and Brad (Keselowski) did to me in the Cup race last year. If you out-brake somebody getting in there and you both are already on so much edge, one of you is going to have to give. If you’re that guy on the inside, you’re going to run into the guy on your left and you’re going to put him off into the island, there, in the grass. You’ve got to be conscious of that. That’s why I got out of the way and stopped when I had my problem there.”
Do you prefer Watkins Glen over the road course in Sonoma, Calif.?
“No, not really. I like both road courses. They’re both fun. For me, road racing is enjoyable. You get a chance to turn right and turn left and do something different than what you typically do. For me, I’m excited about it. Hopefully, we have a good shot at running well there again this year with our M&M’s Camry. We won four years ago and should have been able to win last year, so we’ve been decent and, hopefully this time around, we can get another win.”
Source: Joe Gibbs Racing