KYLE BUSCH New Road Course Ringer HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 17, 2009) -- When talk on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series turns to road course specialist substitutes this week, one team won't need to flip through its Rolodex in search of a ringer, as...
New Road Course Ringer
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 17, 2009) -- When talk on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series turns to road course specialist substitutes this week, one team won't need to flip through its Rolodex in search of a ringer, as it already has a budding road course specialist of its own -- Kyle Busch.
Last season, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), dominated the road course scene, leading 130 of a total of 202 road course laps and capturing victories at both Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Much like NASCAR regulars who are known to be strong on the road courses, such as Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, Busch quickly established himself in 2008 as a routine road course contender.
Adding to his 2008 road course dominance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Busch captured his first road course victory of any kind in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event in March at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, leading twice for a total of 22 laps on his way to victory lane.
The talented 24-year-old hopes to continue his road course dominance during Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k at Sonoma. The second-year JGR driver has three Sprint Cup wins to his credit this season and hopes the 12-turn, 1.99-mile road course will bring the M&M's team back to its winning ways after a recent string of bad racing luck.
This weekend, Busch's No. 18 M&M'S car will feature a special paint scheme to celebrate the upcoming theatrical release of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." In the highly-anticipated sequel, debuting June 24, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the AUTOBOTS® against their sworn enemies, the DECEPTICONS®.
So as the Sprint Cup Series heads to its annual stop in Northern California's wine country, Busch hopes to "ring" up a road course win in 2009.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How did you go from "no experience on road courses" to "road-course expert" in a matter of a few short years?
"I do the Bondurant School out in Phoenix each year prior to going to the Infineon race just to try and get toned back up and get my hands acclimated because you normally get some blisters driving the road courses. Mexico City last year was a big help, since I got my first road-course win there a few months before winning at Sonoma. That helped my confidence and experience a lot on the road courses."
Jeff Gordon said he was "shocked" after you won at Infineon because you "aren't a very good road racer." But then you went on to sweep both road courses with your win at Watkins Glen. What do you think of that?
"You know, Jeff is a four-time champion and the guy I grew up admiring. He's had some good things to say about me this year. Whether it's a road course or an oval, I've learned to manage a race more than I have ever before, and to be more patient than I was earlier in my career. I'm still going to be aggressive and go for it, at times, but there's a time for that and a time to ride, too. As for the road courses, I love road racing because it's almost like an off weekend to me. You get a chance to turn right and left and be kind of crazy. You try not to go off course, but it does happen and you get a chance to rebound as quickly and smoothly as you can. For me, it's just a matter of going out there and relaxing and being as patient as I can be behind the wheel of the car. Sometimes, driving it hard isn't the smoothest way around. You just try your best to get through the corners smoothly without losing your momentum. I was able to learn that in a short time period. But even I would admit that I didn't think I could win both road-course races like we ended up doing last year."
Infineon was your first road course win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. How important was that win?
"Winning the Toyota race at Infineon Raceway was really cool -- probably the other highlight of last year, aside from getting Toyota its first-ever Sprint Cup win at Atlanta. For me, to be able to put myself on the list of road-course winners, that was pretty special, too."
What is your favorite memory of that day?
"I think there were a couple of things that stuck out. It was a big deal to win a race sponsored by Toyota, but also just being able to turn around that car from where we started. I'm not sure in my whole Cup career that I've had that big of a turnaround in how the car drove from when we unloaded to the end of the race. It really amazed me. A lot of credit just goes to Steve (Addington, crew chief), Toyota, and the M&M's guys for sticking with me when we didn't have a great car to start the weekend. They just kept digging and believed in me and I believed in them."
All drivers want to win every week. But going into the race, did you really expect to win that day?
"It turned out to be a pretty good race considering where we thought we were going to be when we unloaded there. When we were there on Friday, literally, I thought it was just going to be a dismal weekend and I was trying to figure out what tire barrier we were going to put it in because it wasn't fun. We changed everything from Friday to Saturday and the guys did an awesome job, and Steve made some great calls on what to change and how to get the thing better. Judging by where we started, we didn't think we would be that great. And once we got through final practice, we thought we would be okay. But we went from 30th to 13th or 12th before the first green-flag pit stop took place, and I thought that was awesome. After the first green-flag pit stop the caution came out and we were up front when it mattered most. And both cautions fell our way, and we were able to stay up front and run only as hard as we needed to, conserve fuel, and we were able to win there."
What's your favorite part of racing at Infineon?
"The elevation changes can make it a lot of fun, but in the beginning I was lost at Infineon, to be honest with you. I raced Legends cars and road courses there five years ago and learned the technique and stuff of shifting and braking and all that, and then got to the Cup cars and they are so different. I was just lost. I give a lot of that credit to testing with Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) a lot of the times and learning a lot from those guys when I was at Hendrick and working with them. And, of course, more of that expertise goes to Max Papis, our test driver at Hendrick, and learning stuff from him and reading reports that he did and picking up on it, following guys like Boris Said and Robby Gordon, the guys who are good at it and fast at it."