Paving the Way to First Kansas Win
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2012) – As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the newly repaved and slightly reconfigured Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, count Kyle Busch among the drivers hoping the fresh asphalt will create some fresh results in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), might welcome the drastic change to the track surface as much as anyone. With an average finish of just 20.0 in his previous 10 visits to Kansas in a Sprint Cup car, which includes just two top-10 finishes, Busch feels there is nowhere to go but up.
But, as is the case at most racetracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events, Busch has tasted success at Kansas in NASCAR’s second tier of competition, scoring 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 10 visits on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
With the track freshly paved and reconfigured, the Las Vegas native hopes to finally taste success at the 1.5-mile oval just a stone’s throw west of the Missouri-Kansas state line. Sporting a special M&M’s Halloween “Fun Packs” paint scheme on his No. 18 Toyota, Busch will be chasing a long-awaited first victory at Kansas with a vengeance as he and his team try to put their past struggles there far behind them.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What changes have you seen over the years at Kansas Speedway?
“Kansas is a typical cookie-cutter-type racetrack that we always call a mile-and-a-half that has that layout. I had a chance to test some with the 20 team (Joey Logano) when Joey had to go to an appearance while the tire testing was happening there. Typically, when we repave these places, you’re always stuck to the bottom. It’s the fastest way around – the shortest way around. There are definitely some things about it that are different than other racetracks we go to, but I think with the new repave, it feels much more like Chicago to me, a place we ran well at a few weeks ago, so it makes me hopeful for this weekend with our M&M’s Halloween Camry. All of these 1.5-mile tracks might look alike, but they all drive differently and that’s what the drivers like. We don’t want to see a Charlotte, a Texas and an Atlanta all the same. They’re all so different. But yet, from the naked eye looking from above, they’re all laid out the same. So, you would think they drive the same. But, they’re completely different.”
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 last year. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they are going to repave it just like they did at Kansas. We had a top-10 finish there in the spring, which wasn’t bad, but we never really had the old surface figured out.”
Beginning in 2001, Kansas Speedway hosted just one Sprint Cup race a year until last year, when the series visited the track twice. You’ve only run 10 races there total. Does that make a difference with how much track time you’ve had there?
“I think we need to be better than I have run there before. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and all the guys in the shop have worked really hard to be as prepared as possible for Kansas and there’s a little bit of an unknown factor since it’s the first race there on the new surface. We ran much better at Chicago than we ever have before, so were capable of doing it. The banking is just a little bit different but, other than that, it’s really similar. This weekend would be a great time to get it figured out and, hopefully, have a good solid top-five day for M&M’s and Toyota.”
Are there more goals for your team this year before the season is over?
“There’s really nothing in ’12 that we’ve got left to accomplish besides win. We’ve come really close here the last five weeks and we’ve been, besides an issue at New Hampshire, as good or better than most of the guys in the Chase, so that’s encouraging. We’ll try to do that and get what we can for our M&M’s team and get into victory lane before the year’s out. Other than that, our push right now is our new cars. We’ve got to start working on those and building those. We’ve had a couple of tests for the 2013 car. A lot of body changes are going to happen and chassis changes, as well, with NASCAR making the cars lighter for next year. We’ve got to go ahead and get started on that. Beyond what else there is to work on – you have to just start out the year better. We had a few dismal runs early in the year and then we had our May stretch during which we ran in the top-five five weeks in a row. From there, all hell broke loose. We’ll hopefully have better luck than that next year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t give our best effort each week for the rest of this year. We’ve proved we can do that the last five races with our results.”
Source: Joe Gibbs Racing