KYLE BUSCH Chiseling Into the Chase HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 2, 2009) -- Two weeks ago, Kyle Busch entered the Sharpie 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway 15th in the championship point standings. He also had ...
Chiseling Into the Chase
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 2, 2009) -- Two weeks ago, Kyle Busch entered the Sharpie 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway 15th in the championship point standings. He also had a rather intimidating 70-point deficit to 12th-place Mark Martin and the final spot in the Chase for the Championship.
Busch responded to the challenge by doing what he does best. He won.
The Las Vegas native led only once, for the final 68 laps, to win the Sharpie 500 and, in the process, vaulted the Pedigree team up to 13th in the standings, just 34 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will look to chisel into that 34-point margin in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
In March 2008, Busch took the No. 18 to victory lane at Atlanta, ending a 147-race drought for the team. He'd like nothing more than to put the No. 18 back into the winner's circle this weekend while also inching closer to a spot in the Chase and securing himself a chance at a championship.
While the quest for the Chase as been the focus for Busch, the last two weeks has provided a couple of milestones and records for the talented 24-year-old.
His victory at Bristol was the 16th Sprint Cup win of his career, tying him with Carl Edwards for 44th on the all-time win list in NASCAR's top division. However, Busch now owns outright the record for most wins before the age of 25, which he shared with Jeff Gordon at 15 victories before hitting the quarter-century mark.
And while most of the Sprint Cup competitors enjoyed a rare off weekend last week, Busch competed in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., and the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
Busch finished 10th in Sunday's Nationwide Series race in Montreal, but Thursday night in the Truck Series race at Chicagoland, Busch notched his 13th career victory in the series and his 56th among NASCAR's top-three divisions -- Sprint Cup (16), Nationwide (27) and Camping World Truck (13).
The victory at Chicagoland marked the fifth track that Busch has won at in all three divisions, with the others being Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Should he win in Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Atlanta, the list would grow to six, as he has found victory lane at Atlanta's 1.54-mile oval four times in the Truck Series and once in the Sprint Cup Series.
There's a lot going on in Busch's world right now, but the main focus is simple: "Chisel into the Chase."
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on the final two races -- Atlanta and Richmond -- before the Chase begins?
"Atlanta, earlier this year, wasn't great for us (finished 18th). We really have to work it out there. We feel like Richmond will be really strong and we feel like we can do the same thing we did at Bristol. Atlanta, we'll work on and try to make the best that we can out of it. We seem to run well at the high-banked mile-and-a-halves, so hopefully, we can go back to some notes from last year and make something happen to come out with another top-five or top-10 for the Pedigree team."
What is the game plan for the next two weeks?
"Win (laughter). Atlanta, we have a little bit of work to do. We weren't as good as we needed to be there this spring. We'll just try to be better. We'll try to work as hard as we can to make the car do what it needs to do. There's not going to be any time for me to sit with Steve (Addington, crew chief) at Atlanta. It's all a one-day show for Nationwide. I'm going to be running back and forth all over the place. That's not going to be much fun for Steve and I trying to communicate. We'll just have to get together Saturday night after Nationwide or Sunday morning. Talk about what we've got, see what we can do to make it better. Richmond, we feel like we can go there and run strong. That's a place where I don't qualify well, sort of like Bristol, but when the race comes around, we seem to run well. We can work our way steadily toward the front. We'll do what we need to do. Hopefully, at the end of the race, if we have a shot to go after it, we'll go after it. I think my biggest concern is going to be Atlanta, just trying to get through Atlanta with a solid top-10 finish. If we can do that, I think we'll be okay."
Last season, you were very successful in the first 26 races and struggled in the Chase. This season, you've struggled in the regular season. If you get in the Chase, do you feel there is an opportunity to find the consistency that has eluded you this season and in last year's Chase?
"Steve (Addington) and I talked a couple of weeks ago at the shop just trying to come up with some things as to why. We're trying to find the answers, too. We go to Bristol pretty much with the same setup every time, and everywhere else we've sort of changed and gone in a different direction. Maybe that direction isn't the direction we needed to go. We're thinking about going back more of what we ran setup-wise last year at some of those places, to see if it works. We've got to try something. We've fallen behind a little bit this year, for some reason. I don't know that we've fallen behind as much as everybody else has just gotten better. The Hendrick cars, man, they are just so strong. They were really, really good in 2007. I think they won half the races, especially with the new car. Last year, it looked like we had things going our way. We were really good with it. This year, they've been back on top. The (No.) 14 (Tony Stewart), the (No.) 48 (Jimmie Johnson) have been good. The (No.) 5 (Mark Martin) has been really, really good. It's tough. Competition changes all the time. There are waves that go up and down. This year, we've been in one of those downs. We're trying to make the Chase. If we barely make it in, we've been clawing at it for the past five weeks just trying to get back up there and make it in. We had a respectable run at Pocono. We lost ground at Michigan on the last run. We had a part that hit our car and ended up bending another piece on our car that caused it to get tight. Just unfortunate circumstances sometimes bite you. You can't do anything about it."
You won last weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. How does it feel to have won in all three of NASCAR's top three divisions at Chicagoland?
"It's definitely an accomplishment. I love being able to win races in anything, anywhere. It's the fifth venue I've been able to win in all three series. I'm trying for more, so hopefully we can get some more in there. I'd love to be able to get a sweep at every place that I've been to. Time will tell that hopefully down the road. It was really cool to win at Chicagoland. My parents are from just outside (Chicago) in the suburbs. They grew up around this area. My girlfriend is from around there, just across the border in Indiana. So, it's really cool to sort of come to this second home in the Midwest and win in front of all the family and friends there."