No Horsing Around at Dover
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 28, 2011) – When Kyle Busch and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries team sat down and looked at the schedule for the 2011 edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, they circled several races on the calendar they knew where they would have a shot at bringing home a victory during NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.
One of those tracks happened to be Dover (Del.) International Speedway, site of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 and race number three in this year’s Chase. In addition to Dover’s concrete mile oval used two weekends a year for stock car racing, the venue also plays host to another type of horsepower in the form of harness racing on its 0.625-mile horse track during various other weekends throughout the year.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), knows that a good run on a track that is known as much for its four-legged competitors as it is competitors of the four-wheel variety could well be the venue that bolsters his chances at bringing home his first Sprint Cup Championship.
Dover has been as strong racetrack for Busch and the Interstate Batteries team as the Las Vegas native has posted two Sprint Cup wins, three Nationwide Series wins, and three Truck Series wins there. All but the Truck Series win (2005) came in the last three years.
Busch will not only try to keep the momentum going this weekend at Dover, when he’ll shoot for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the “Monster Mile,” he’ll also try to recreate the magic of his May 2010 race that saw him lead 131 laps en route to his second career Sprint Cup victory at the track.
The talented 26-year-old is coming off a solid 11th-place finish last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon after being on the wrong side of the fuel-mileage game during the opening race of the Chase two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Despite an ill-handling racecar and an inadvertent slide through his pit box on the last stop of the day at New Hampshire, Busch and the No. 18 team rallied and came out on the right side of the fuel-mileage game this time around.
Thanks to their gutty performance at Loudon, which was an Achilles heel for Busch and JGR’s No. 18 team during the Chase in the past, Busch moved up to sixth in the Sprint Cup standings and sits just 26 points behind new leader Tony Stewart.
Just like sponsor Interstate’s popular slogan, Busch and Company look to keep their “Outrageously Dependable” top-10 streak going during the third Chase race on the Delmarva Peninsula this weekend, and they know there’ll be no time to horse around as Dover could help catapult the Interstate Batteries team into an even better position in the 2011 Sprint Cup championship fight.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You have two Sprint Cup wins and a competitive history at Dover. What is your game plan this weekend?
“I love that place. It’s fun to race there and it’s a place that I’m looking forward to going to with our Interstate Batteries Camry. I went there when I was 18 to race in the Nationwide Series for my first time. It will scare you the first time you race there. You carry so much speed at this racetrack and, for it to be a mile in length and for it to be concrete – concrete surfaces that we race on, anyway, are a little bit slick. It’s definitely a roller-coaster ride and you need to treat it like it’s fun and not to be scared of the place, I think, because you can get so much out of that place. There are two ways about it – you can probably be really, really good there, or really, really bad there. Some days you’re going to be better than others, obviously, with how you can get your car set-up compared to the competition. For me, just getting to race there in the Trucks and the Nationwide cars and the Sprint Cup cars – to me, it gives me a little more experience on the racetrack. It helps me understand a little bit more about how the rubber gets laid down during the race and how the different cars might handle.”
What does it take to be successful at Dover?
“Dover, being a concrete track, is challenging. They are all a challenge, but Dover is especially so, just because of the way you have to run around that place. The way tires sometimes wear out. The way the rubber gets put down there. You’ve got to be fast through the corner. Two-thirds of your lap time is through the turn rather than down the straightaway, so you definitely have to make sure you have a good-handling race car – one that’s good in the beginning of the run on low air pressures and one that’s good at the end of the run on high air pressures, and even through traffic, too. Some of the most challenging times are when you’re trying to get through traffic with guys.”
Do you feel you need to take chances to win races in the Chase?
“I think we’re going to play it out as we have all year. We haven’t changed anything. We’re just going out there to do the best we can to run the hardest we can, the smartest we can, and let the results take care of themselves. If we finish enough times in the top-five or the top-10, or win a couple, then the results will take care of themselves. For us, we’re not pressured. We’re 26 points back, or whatever it is, and there are a lot of guys with the same amount of points around us. We just have to keep in mind that there are still eight more weeks, there are still a lot more miles left of racing, and we’ll see where it falls.”
Did you expect the first two races of the Chase to come down to fuel mileage? How do you approach it with that added element?
“Your strategy is to get better fuel mileage than anybody else out there. How you do that? I couldn’t tell you. Certainly, there are other guys who get better mileage than us, but we get better mileage than others. It’s just a matter of what your strategy has been all day and when you’ve been on pit road and what kind of tires you’ve been taking – whether it’s been two or whether it’s been four. It doesn’t necessarily just play into fuel strategy. It plays into tires and everything. At Chicago, we came out on the wrong end of the fuel-mileage game but then, last week, we came out on the right end of it.”
Do you enjoy racing at Dover?
“It’s definitely a fast racetrack. It’s a fun racetrack, too. It makes it interesting when you get to traffic, when you have to pass guys, when you’re kind of falling down into the hole and jumping back up out of the hole to the straightaways. It’s a good place to race. It’s a competitive racetrack and, when the rubber gets laid down, it definitely changes the whole atmosphere and the whole way you run around that place.”
Does going from concrete to asphalt change the way the car handles?
“We don’t run on another asphalt racetrack that’s banked like that or shaped like that. The mile tracks we go to that are asphalt are Phoenix and Loudon, and they are relatively flat. The concrete just changes the feel a little bit, of course, and changes the way you approach the racetrack, too.”