HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 1, 2013) – The first two races contested on the new racing surface at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City were not kind to Kyle Busch. But, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, he’s hoping the third time is a charm.
The Las Vegas native sits third in the standings, just four points behind five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and 12 points behind JGR teammate and current points leader Matt Kenseth.
On top of his strong start to the Chase, Busch’s optimism also grows knowing there are some changes in the tire Goodyear will bring to Kansas this weekend. Busch got a chance to participate in a tire test at Kansas in mid-July and felt the M&M’s team learned some valuable lessons trying out Goodyear’s new “dual zone tread” technology. Goodyear also opted not to bring the same left-side tire that has given Busch fits over the first two races on the repaved surface at Kansas, and teams will get an additional four-hour test Thursday afternoon to gather additional information leading into the typical practice and qualifying schedule Friday and Saturday.
Now would be an opportune time for Busch to make a breakthrough at Kansas as he has at all but a handful of tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. Busch has won at 17 of the 23 venues at which the Sprint Cup Series competes. The only six tracks Busch has failed to reach victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series are Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas.
Despite the dry spell at Kansas in NASCAR’s top series, Busch has tasted success at there in NASCAR’s second tier of competition – as is the case at most racetracks on the Nationwide Series schedule – with a victory in 2007, a runner-up finish in 2009, and a pair of third-place runs in 2006 and 2010. The best he has to show for his 12 visits on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
So, as Busch heads to the Heartland of America this weekend, he hopes his current hot streak, coupled with changes to the racing tire, will help make Sunday’s third outing his best one, yet, as his title quest continues in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you think the new tire will do at Kansas this weekend?
“It does have the ‘dual zone tread’ compound, but it’s not the same tread compound, I believe. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s the same one we ran at Atlanta. So, we went and did the tire test a couple of months ago and I thought we learned some things and went really well for us and I think for Goodyear, as well. They changed the left-side tire compound, so we’re not on that treacherous left that everybody spins out and crashes on, including myself three times. And we’re also going to be on the new ‘dual zone tread’ on the right. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘dual zone’ right at Kansas, but it did get great reviews at Atlanta, so I would expect that it will run pretty well at Kansas, too, and I’m hoping our M&M’s Camry takes to it and we have another strong run.”
Do you have to temper your enthusiasm after a good start to the Chase?
“Yeah, a little bit, but we’re pleased with our start at the same time. Certainly, I’ve been in this Chase a few times – I haven’t been in it consistently every year – but it seems like when I am, then a lot of the same questions arise. Jimmie (Johnson) might be the guy who gets sick of it more than most because he’s in it every single year, but it is sort of the same thing every year, you know? We try to get through the first few races and build a strong foundation and, for those who can build a strong foundation, it’s usually beneficial to their Chase and the others sort of start out with a bad couple of weeks. That’s not so good for their Chase, so it all gets jumbled up in the beginning, it all kind of gets mixed together in the middle, and then at the end you know who the players are going to be, so you just kind of have to – I’d say you – wait through Talladega (Superspeedway) and, once you get past that, you’ll know who your players are going to be.”
Do you feel like you have a team that can put it all together to win a championship?
“There’s only one way to find out and that’s to run these races. Certainly we want to, we need to, you know you have to, but there’s also anything that can happen in this sport and we’ve seen that time and time again over the years, where you don’t expect something to happen and then, all of a sudden, something does happen. I’ve literally had things fall out of the sky this year and hit my racecar. So, just be ready for anything. I think this team is as prepared as it’s ever been and we’ve shown it so far in the first three races of the Chase.”
Kansas is a place where you’ve traditionally struggled over the years but, with the momentum swing you’re on, will that help you there this weekend?
“I’m looking forward to Kansas with the roll we’re on. I thought we were running decent there last fall. Actually, I was leading and I spun myself out while I was leading. So, hopefully, we have a good car like that this time around and I don’t make a mistake like that. But, you know, Kansas is newly repaved. It’s got a winter on it, now, so we’ll see how that changes things. But I still expect it to be fast. So we’ve got to develop our notes in Kansas this weekend and, fortunately, I’ve got a really good teammate in Matt Kenseth who has won the last two races there. He and I have been working really well this year. His team and our team have been really, really good with one another. Denny (Hamlin) has been good there in the past and has been a big asset for us the last several weeks, as well. It feels really good to have good chemistry between all three of us at JGR.”
Why has Kansas been so difficult for you over the years?
“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that, it’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at this place a lot like Michigan. That’s a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they repaved it along with Kansas.”