Kyle Busch - Numbers Don’t Lie
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 7, 2011) – How good is Kyle Busch at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway? Well it’s pretty easy to tell by simply looking at the numbers.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is returning to Richmond for Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 as the most recent winner at the .75-mile oval, having won the April event in dominating fashion. It was his third career Sprint Cup victory at Richmond to go along with four runner-up finishes and an amazing 11 top-fives in just 13 career Sprint Cup starts in Virginia’s capital city.
It’s kind of where we come from – the Saturday-night-under-the-lights kind of local short-track deal.
The Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 4.9, tops among active drivers at Richmond, where he sits ahead of JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, whose average finish there is 7.5. Busch has completed all 5,210 laps available to him in his 13 career starts there. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 4,641 laps (89.1 percent), second-most among active drivers at Richmond.
While he has always had strong runs at Richmond, Busch’s first Sprint Cup victory there didn’t come until his ninth career start there in May 2009, when he became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough, who ended up doing it twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983. Starting with his win at Richmond on May 2, 2009, Busch has finished no worse than fifth there during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons, recording wins in all three spring races and fifth and second, respectively, in the fall races.
While the talented 26-year-old would like nothing more than to capture his fourth win at Richmond and add to his already impressive stats, he and his M&M’s team have their sights set on bringing some momentum from Richmond into the 10-race, 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, which starts the following week at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. A good finish at Richmond would go a long way toward building confidence for Busch and the No. 18 team in their goal of finally knocking off five-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and a slew of other challengers.
With all that’s at stake, and after all Busch has already accomplished there, it’s little wonder that a visit to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia” is one of his favorite stops on the NASCAR tour. Besides, numbers don’t lie.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What do you like about racing at Richmond?
“I enjoy going to Richmond. It’s been a fun place and a great place for me with results, lately. For myself, the short-track appeal to it – I think it relates to a lot of fans and relates to a lot of us drivers. It’s kind of where we come from – the Saturday-night-under-the-lights kind of local short-track deal. To me, Richmond is a tough little place, though. You’ve got to have good brakes and have to get it slowed down, have to be able to roll the center really well and get the power down, especially off turn two, as well as turn four. With the way the track kind of is laid out, it lends itself to some good racing. Being able to get a run off the top side when the top is good and keeping the momentum through the inside lane, as well, too, and not letting yourself get bogged down too much racing side-by-side with somebody. To me, it’s a fun place and we enjoy going there. I’m certainly looking forward to getting back with our M&M’s Camry.”
Since you’ve been in the position that a few of the drivers will be in this weekend, what was it like trying to race your way into the Chase in 2009?
“With the pressures that are added trying to make the Chase, when the Chase starts, or even through the Chase for the last three races or whatever it might be, you definitely put some pressure on yourself. I remember in 2009 just trying to get through the last three weeks, and we win at Bristol, we come to Atlanta and struggle a little bit – I think Michigan was one of those, too, that we didn’t run very well at. When you’re in that position, you’re thinking that anything you can do to minimize your losses and just try to get a good day would be good. When you finish – shoot, I think we finished 12th in Atlanta and then fifth at Richmond – those aren’t two bad finishes, but we missed the Chase. It means the most to your team and to your guys and to your sponsors and your manufacturer and everything that you are in the Chase because, ultimately, that’s what you set out for in the beginning of the year. There are 28 or 30 great teams out there every week and there’s only a spot for 12 to make the Chase. It’s a very limited number of guys.”
Do you think you are in a good place heading into the Chase?
“We’re certainly in a really good spot right now, going into the Chase. We just have to be in a really good spot throughout the Chase. We’ve got the most wins right now and are up there in the points. All that changes when we get to Chicago. We’ll see what happens this weekend. We’d like to get one more win if we can. Richmond has been a good track for us, so we’ll see.”
Will you approach the Chase races differently?
“Our approach is still the same. We know that there’s basically a reset button that happens and everybody gets bottled back up together in points. We’re all separated by maybe two or maybe three points. Certainly, it’s going to be a matter of just being consistent and kind of like starting at the beginning of the year again. You know that if you have a bad day, it’s really going to hurt you. To be able to bounce back the following week or the following few weeks is going to be more crucial than ever.”
Do you do anything differently at Richmond than you have in the past?
“In the past, it’s been just about playing it smart and doing what we have to be successful. You don’t want to change too much and get the guys thrown off base and have to recalculate for Chicago. For us, we just want to go out there and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year and strategize to try to win the race, possibly. Certainly, if there’s a time where it will come down to a pit stop or something like that, we have to think about the best opportunity for us to win the race and to beat our competitors.”
You’ve had plenty of success at Richmond over the years with an impressive average finish of 4.9. Is there a way you drive the racecar there that has helped you?
“At Richmond, you try to be easy on the brakes getting in so you don’t lock up getting into the corner or get too loose getting into the corner. It’s really particular there. The center (of the corner) always seems to be a little tight with these cars. And the exit, today, has been so loose. Nobody has any forward bite coming up off the corner, so it’s pretty bad. That should make for a pretty interesting race. It’s a fun short track. It’s pretty fast and it usually spreads out, and you’ll get a lot of grooves to choose from. You can pretty much count on the usual exciting short-track race when you go there.”