Law of Averages
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 4, 2011) – In the late 1600s, Swiss mathematician and physicist Jakob Bernoulli formulated a statistical principle that he named the Law of Averages. Simply put, the idea behind the term was that probability will influence all occurrences in the long term that one will neither win nor lose all of the time.
Through three races of the 10-race, 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), crew chief Dave Rogers, and his entire team feel like the law of averages is on their side as they enter the fourth race of NASCAR’s playoffs – Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
After a potential top-five run was thwarted by an empty fuel tank in the opening race of the chase at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., resulting in a disappointing 22nd-place finish, Busch and Company have fought back with solid finishes of 11th and sixth, respectively, during the past two races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Even though the talented 26-year-old would have liked a much stronger start to the Chase, he currently sits in eighth place but just 15 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick as he shaved 11 markers off the lead at Dover last weekend. With the M&M’s team having recorded an impressive 13 top-five finishes this season, the law of averages would say it is highly likely to return to form this weekend with another top-five finish that would go a long way toward Busch’s title hopes.
Much like his three races thus far in the Chase, Busch also hopes the law of averages come into play with his return to Kansas Speedway. With an average finish of just 22.4 in his previous eight visits to Kansas, Busch knows he is due a strong finish there with the improvements the team has made at intermediate tracks this season. Busch turned around his fortunes earlier this year at another intermediate track – Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Even though the 2-mile Michigan layout had given Busch fits over the years, he broke through for his first Sprint Cup win there in August after an average finish of just 16.6 in his 13 previous races at the track.
The 1.5-mile Kansas layout just a stone’s throw west of the Kansas-Missouri state line has been one of Busch’s most challenging venues over the past seven seasons. But the addition of a second race date there this year only helps accelerate the growing database of knowledge it will take for he and his M&M’s teammates to find the kind of success they’re accustomed to.
As is the case at most racetracks on the Nationwide Series schedule, Busch has tasted success at Kansas in NASCAR’s second tier of competition, scoring a victory (2007), a runner-up finish (2009) and a pair of third-place runs (2006, 2010). The best he has to show for his eight visits on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
So, the question remains: Is this weekend when the law of averages will work in Busch’s favor? It certainly seems that Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 might be the time for the roulette wheel to finally land on the No. 18 at Kansas.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s 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. It’s got older asphalt, now, but we know that’s going to change for next year. The surface has matured a little bit over the years. It’s a racetrack where you can move all over the place. You can go from the bottom all the way to the top. Typically, when we repave these places, you’re always stuck to the bottom. It’s the fastest way around – the shortest way around. Sometimes, there’s not a lot of grip. It’s got good age to it. It’s got some character. There are definitely some things about it that are different than other racetracks that we go to. And that’s what we like – 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 that 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 that I struggled at for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win this year. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they are going to repave it just like they are going to do at Kansas, but it would be nice to get a win on the current surface at Kansas before they do the repave just like we were able to do at Michigan.”
Kansas Speedway has only played host to Sprint Cup racing since 2001, and you’ve only run seven races there, but now are going there twice a year. What are your thoughts heading into Kansas this weekend?
“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. We ran much better at Chicago this year even though our results didn’t show it, and the guys went to work to bring an even better car to Kansas this weekend and it’s a very similar layout to Chicago. The banking is just a little bit different but, other than that, it’s really similar. I’ve had some success with JGR and Hendrick in the Nationwide Series there, and I’m hoping, with a little more experience and knowledge, I can do that in the Cup car at Kansas, as well. This weekend would be a great time to get it figured out and, hopefully, have a good solid top-five day with our M&M’s Camry.”
Were there any challenges to having only one Sprint Cup race each year at Kansas Speedway, and will it change things a bit for you as far as getting more knowledge and track time, there, with this second race?
“We go to Indy once a year. We go to Chicago once a year, a lot of different racetracks once a year. It’s a little bit different of a challenge because you’ve got to remember that far back. I think the more Dave (Rogers) and the guys go there, we will keep learning, and it will only help us with our notebook of information. Dave is really good at learning from past races. He’s constantly thinking about ways to improve things, especially at places where we’ve struggled. I’ve really never had much luck at Kansas in the Cup car, so I’m hoping we can turn that around this weekend. I’ve run well there, at times, but seem to be snake-bitten a bit with mechanical issues or getting caught up in an accident. We’re hoping we can turn that around this weekend. After the Chicago race last year, we basically threw out our notebook there and started over. We ran really well there this year even though the result didn’t show it since we ran out of gas, but we’re hoping to take what we learned at places like Michigan and Chicago, where we’ve run well at those intermediate tracks and, and apply them to Kansas.”
The Kansas race often has come down to fuel mileage – including three of the last four years. The spring race there came down to fuel and the first two Chase races also came down to fuel mileage. What have you learned about saving fuel? Is it a matter of saving it, or just being in a position where you can gamble at the end of the race?
“It’s probably just a matter of either being in a position to gamble, more times than not. When you’re trying to conserve fuel, it’s pretty much all on luck. You try to roll out of the gas early and be smooth getting back to it. You’ll probably save a drop here or there, but nothing that’s going to make a big difference. I think four times in my career I’ve tried, but I didn’t make it on three of them. It depends on the scenario. If you’re short by three laps with 60 laps to go and you go green the rest of the way, if you start saving, you will go for it. But if you’re short five laps, if there is no other way but to stop, you might as well come in early and then go for it.”
Is it a struggle for you not to pass during the race if you are saving fuel and your car for the end of the race?
“Yeah, you want to race those guys who are around you all of the time. You want to go, ‘Uh, there’s a car in front of me. I want to pass that guy.’ That’s what’s in your blood to do. Sometimes you’ve just got to back off a little bit and kind of let the race play out. You’ve got to get to the end on the final pit stop. Once you get to the final pit stop, then the race is on. That’s kind of the way it works out. This place can suck you in and it can suck you in pretty easily – into the wall, I mean.”