HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 6, 2013) – Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series resume at Watkins Glen International doesn’t completely tell the story of his eight career starts at the road course in Upstate New York.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has notched an impressive seven top-10 finishes in those eight starts at The Glen. One of those top-10s was his 2008 victory and, when adding his average finish of 9.0 along with his 159 laps led, Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s 355k at The Glen.
But while Busch’s record is impressive at The Glen, he won’t soon forget the two that got away from him.
In addition to Busch’s 2008 win there, he came agonizingly close to his second Sprint Cup win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course his last two visits there. In 2011, 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 over the years on road courses, in general, Busch will understandably be looking for redemption Sunday after being so close to winning at The Glen in 2011 and 2012.
Also, with just five races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field is set, Busch sits sixth in the standings and in a much better position than a year ago, when he was 15th and battling to crack the top-10 in points and the chance to make NASCAR’s playoffs. But with two wins thus far and a solid points position, a third win this season would add precious bonus points in the initial Chase standings if Busch and the M&M’s team can close the deal Sunday in the New York’s Fingers Lakes region.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What is it that makes you so successful at road courses?
“It’s just time – getting better at road racing. For me, at the beginning I wasn’t excellent at it. I felt like I was OK, but I’ve gotten better at it over time. Just understanding the dynamic of the car a little bit more and what you can do with it, how much you can throw it into the corners and throw it around through the corners and all of that stuff. It just kind of takes time to figure all of that out. Watkins Glen is one of my better tracks and we haven’t finished it off the last couple years. I’m hoping this time we can lead laps like we have in the past and get another trophy there with our M&M’s Camry.”
What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses is pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging, 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.”
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 of 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 continue to 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 outbrake somebody really good. Getting into the bus stop, you can outbrake 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 there in 2011. If you outbrake 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.?
“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 at Watkins Glen again this year with our M&M’s Camry. We won five years ago and should have been able to win the last two years, so we’ve been decent and, hopefully this time around, we can get another win.”