Moving On Up
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 8, 2012) – When Kyle Busch left Martinsville (Va.) Speedway April 1 after disappointing 36th-place finish and sat 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, he also had left a disappointing start to the season behind him. He just didn’t quite know it, yet.
A little more than a month and four races later, the driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has been moving right up in the Sprint Cup standings ever since leaving behind the disappointment of Martinsville.
After taking the weekend after Martinsville off for the Easter holiday, Busch and the No. 18 team went back to work starting at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where they brought home a solid 11th-place finish. At the eighth race of the season, at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch scored a 10th-place finish. Suddenly Busch found himself 13th in the standings with even better news on the horizon – Richmond (Va.) International Raceway was the next race on the docket.
Busch had won the previous three spring races at the .75-mile short track. Again, he and the No. 18 JGR team did not disappoint as they brought home their fourth consecutive spring victory at Richmond, a win that catapulted Busch two more spots to 11th in the standings. With the win, Busch topped Richard Petty’s record of three wins in a row in the spring race at Richmond.
Next up was last weekend’s event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where Busch was able to avoid several multicar accidents that many others could not. Busch narrowly missed his second consecutive win when he lost contact with Brad Keselowski in turn three while pushing him on the final lap, and Keselowski went on to win. The consolation prize for runner-up Busch was two more spots gained in the standings to ninth.
The best news of all for Busch this weekend is that the Sprint Cup Series is headed to historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Saturday night for the Southern 500.
Las Vegas native Busch conquered the “Track Too Tough To Tame” in May 2008, scoring his first victory at the 1.33-mile, egg-shaped oval and earning the distinction of being the youngest Sprint Cup winner in the storied history of Darlington, at 23 years of age.
As he wheels his No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry around the Darlington oval this weekend, Busch will focus on “doubling up” his career win total at the always-challenging racetrack that’s also known as “The Lady in Black.” And that would go a long way toward continuing the wave of positive momentum he’s been riding for the last month and, consequently, continue his steady rise in the Sprint Cup standings.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading back to Darlington this weekend?
“Going back to Darlington, it’s a place that’s really tough, really challenging. I won our race there the first year it was repaved, and it’s been really fast. Last year, we had a really good car. Unfortunately, we had some pit-road miscues that got us kind of caught behind. But looking forward to going back there and seeing what Darlington has got in store for us again. Hearing that the track color has changed a little bit, so maybe the grip level is not going to be old Darlington, but something similar.”
What makes Darlington a track that is too tough to tame?
“It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now. We’re looking forward to the challenge with our Doublemint Camry this weekend. You’ve really got to be able to get as close as you can to the wall in order to carry your momentum through the corners because you’ve got to make the straightaways as long as you can. The track is very narrow on entries and exits, so you’re always trying to round the place as much as you can. It’s very one-groovish. You can’t really run side-by-side there. Any time you get alongside somebody, you basically have to let them go. It’s a very big give-and-take-type track. It’s a lot harder to pass now, with the fresh asphalt, than it used to be. It’s really aero-sensitive now, to where it used to be more about mechanical grip and getting your car to handle well and handle over the bumps well and keep the tires on it. Now you’re restricted off the car in front of you and are trying to find some air, basically.”
What do drivers mean when they say you have to “race the track” at Darlington?
“You can’t really pass there. It’s so difficult. So you run your laps until you get to a pit stop and try to get your guys to have a good stop for you so you can jump a couple of guys. Pit stops become really important there, and track position and trying to stay up front.”
Being a former winner, what does it take to win at Darlington?
“I won the first year there with the new car and it’s evolved a lot since then, and I think it was just because everyone was new to the car. In 2009, a lot of people got a lot smarter. And for us, we fell a little bit behind. And last year, we ran well and still kept the car off the wall and got a top-10 finish out of it. You just have to be patient. You just have to bide your time, and I wasn’t very good at that in 2009, but much better the last couple of years. You’ve got to make sure you keep working on your car and be very patient and be there toward the end.”