KYLE BUSCH Murphy's Law HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 1, 2008) -- Murphy's Law simply states that "if anything can go wrong, it will." For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), it might be the most ...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 1, 2008) -- Murphy's Law simply states that "if anything can go wrong, it will."
For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), it might be the most accurate way to describe his team's start to the 2008 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.
After starting this year's Chase atop the standings with a series-high eight wins to his credit, disaster struck over the first three weeks of the Chase as sway bar, engine, and fuel pressure issues relegated the No. 18 team to finishes of 34th, 43rd and 28th, respectively. Busch now sits 12th in the Chase standings, 311 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.
As Busch and his fellow competitors head to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Sunday's AMP Energy 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and round four of the Chase, Murphy's Law might also best describe Busch's luck at the massive, 2.66-mile tri-oval prior to his 2008 arrival at JGR.
In his six previous Sprint Cup starts at Talladega prior to 2008, the Las Vegas native's best finish was 11th in the fall 2006 event while the other five finishes weighed in no better than 30th.
But after taking over JGR's No. 18 Toyota Camry this season, Busch's luck on restrictor-plate tracks, particularly at Talladega, seemed to change for the better. After finishing a solid fourth in February's season-opening 50th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the talented 23-year old captured his first-ever win at Talladega in April. In July, he followed it up by winning at Daytona as he inched ahead of Carl Edwards just as the caution flag flew on the white-flag lap.
In three Sprint Cup restrictor-plate races contested thus far in 2008, Busch has two wins, three top-fives and leads all drivers in laps led with 129.
So as Busch and the Pedigree team look to snap their most recent string of bad luck this weekend, the place where Murphy's Law had plagued Busch's efforts prior to this season might just be the place where he brings the Pedigree Toyota home as the "top dog."
KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway
Heading into the Chase, could you have ever imagined that bad luck would find you three weeks in a row at the very start of the Chase?
"There's definitely no way we would have ever envisioned this happening. The goal now is just to get back to what we were doing at the beginning of the year and just go for wins. That's all we can do. I believe in my guys and they believe in me, so nothing has changed there. It's just been a run of bad luck that happens in racing. It's just too bad it happened to us. I would probably be more frustrated getting wrecked by other drivers or screwing up and ruining the chance for the team. It is stuff that has happened out of everyone's control. It's just bad luck. I don't know where it came from. It has been a stressful few weeks and devastating and disappointing, but you just have to keep going. These guys and myself are just as determined as we've ever been. That hasn't changed at all."
Momentum is usually a huge thing in sports. How important is it to what you do, and how do you get some of the momentum back that you had earlier this season?
"These guys have done a great job this year of putting together some great cars. Unfortunately, here the start of the Chase, it has been tough. All we can do is work at winning a couple before the year is out and finish up the year and focus on a 2009 championship. It's just like anything in sports -- getting into a rhythm. Maybe it's a quarterback who has the best passer rating three games in a row, or maybe a receiver who has a touchdown streak. It's been that way for us this year, so I've considered myself fortunate to still have the year that we've had. It seems like it was Richmond where it all got derailed. We just haven't had the finishes that we've wanted to since then. You've got to keep the team upbeat and get that momentum back on your side. I don't know exactly what we need to do to get it back, but I know our guys will keep working hard and I'll keep driving the wheels off it."
You finally won at Talladega in the spring and bucked your bad-luck streak there. How big was it to get the monkey off your back there?
"We had a great car, Mark (Cronquist, head engine builder at JGR) and all those guys at the shop did an awesome job building a great Toyota engine and it helped power us up through the field there when we were getting bumped and banged all over the place. I felt pretty fortunate that I was able to win there because it's just been a struggle there for as long as I've been going there. I don't think I've ever finished one there without having some sort of damage. I think we really haven't seen that big wreck with the new car that we had with the old car. But even if there is one Sunday, I'm hoping we can avoid it."
We saw some really entertaining drafting at Talladega with the new car in April. What's the difference between racing the old car versus the new car there?
"With the old cars, we could bump draft each other through the corners. And with these cars, they are the same way, but the rear bumpers are high and front bumpers are low, and so we are able to bump draft all the way through the corner and build up a lot of speed all the way around. But when you have two guys who know what they are doing and keep their car straight and you don't hit somebody too hard and just sit on them nicely, it really works and you can use it to your advantage."
Racing at Talladega has changed a lot since they repaved the race track recently. But is the key still to just survive and be there for a shot at the end?
"We've never really had great luck at Talladega until the first race there this year. It had been my worst race track as far as catching a break. The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. In that race, you pretty much stay around the bottom since there is a lot of grip there and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it's hard to get into a line on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are content doing that, so that's when it starts to get crazy."