KYLE BUSCH Sound Familiar? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2008) -- Race report from the 300-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, which signified the beginning of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR ...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2008) -- Race report from the 300-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, which signified the beginning of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup: a leading title contender was involved in an accident and was relegated to a sub-30th place finish that dropped him seven spots in the Chase standings.
While you might think the team, driver and crew chief combination involved in last Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire was the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team of Kyle Busch and crew chief Steve Addington, you'd only be half right.
The same thing happened two years ago to eventual 2006 Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team during the first race of the Chase.
Johnson started the Chase as the second seed, was involved in two separate accidents and finished a disappointing 39th in the New Hampshire event. When he left Loudon, many thought Johnson's quest for his first Sprint Cup title was history. He sat ninth in points and trailed then-points leader Kevin Harvick by 139 markers as the series headed to the second Chase race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Undeterred by their misfortune in the 2006 Chase opener, Johnson and the 48 team rallied to win the Sprint Cup title that year with a remarkable closing run that included a victory and four runner-up finishes.
So Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to recover from his 34th-place result at New Hampshire, which was only his fourth finish of 30th or worse in the 27 point-paying Sprint Cup races held this year.
The talented 23-year-old knows that history has proven he's not out of the title picture by any means. And just like Johnson did in 2006, Busch is looking to start a rally of his own in Sunday's Camping World RV 400 at Dover.
Busch and the No. 18 team currently sit only 74 points behind new series leader Carl Edwards with nine races still remaining before a champion is crowned. Softening the blow of their New Hampshire outing was the body of work they created in the 26 races leading into the Chase -- namely the series-high eight victories that gave Busch 80 bonus points to start the Chase. That was a luxury Johnson didn't have in 2006, and it gave Busch a 30-point advantage over Edwards entering last Sunday's race at Loudon.
A little more history on Busch's side is that there has only been one driver who has won the opening race of the Chase who went on to win the championship -- his older brother Kurt in 2004.
Even better news for Busch is that this weekend's second Chase race takes place at Dover. Back in June when the series made its first visit to the one-mile oval on the Delmarva Peninsula, Busch led four times for 158 laps en route to his fourth win of the season.
As Busch, Addington and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team head back to a track where they've already tasted success once this year -- with the same race-winning car from that June race, no less -- they know they have the makings to execute a quick turnaround of their Chase fortunes.
KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry at Dover International Speedway
Obviously, last week's race was tough for you. What is your mindset going into Dover as you look to get past last week?
"We've got to put last week behind us and look ahead to this week. Last week is over and there's nothing we can do about it. Steve (Addington, crew chief) and all the guys have given me great stuff this year, so one problem isn't going to deter me. I believe in these guys. Whenever we've had a bad race, we've been able to put it behind us the next week. We didn't have good races either time at New Hampshire, but the week after the first race there we came back and won at Daytona. We weren't good at Pocono either race, but won at Watkins Glen the week after the second Pocono race. This team has had a knack for forgetting about bad weeks quickly and hopefully we can do that this week, too."
You won the June race in Dover. Does that give you some added confidence going into this week, knowing it's a place where you already ran well this year?
"For sure. We probably didn't have the best race car there in June. But, we were really good there on long runs and had a big day from the guys on pit road. They really helped me with track position since there were so many green flag runs. They just kept us out front all day and that helped win it for us. Steve (Addington) kept working on the car and we got better and better. We really didn't start off the day with the car where we wanted it to be. It was just another example of why this team has gotten us to where we're at this year and we aren't going to give up. I spent most of the day just riding and taking care of my stuff. I think I would have wrecked, otherwise. I rode around the bottom most of the day and tried not to move around too much."
You've been through some adversity this year with the No. 18 team, even though it's been an incredible year. What has been a key for you this year that you are going to look to over these final nine races in order to challenge for the championship?
"Probably the relationship that Steve (Addington) and I have. I think it just works since I get fired up and he's always the calm voice over the radio. We're proud of the fact it just works. There are some times where the reins have to be pulled back on me. I'll admit it. I think Addington does a good job at that, and Jeff Dickerson (spotter and business manager) does a good job at that, too. I have two guys who are my eyes who see a lot of things I don't who can pull me back when they need to. The other thing is, I think he (Addington) gets a lot of respect from the team. All the guys on the whole team respect him, for all that he knows, for all he's done in this sport for as many years as he's been around. The same goes for me, too. I respect what he's accomplished in this sport. I feel like he's done a tremendous job and, obviously, he's going to keep doing it when times are tough."
In the June race at Dover, we saw that it was really hard to pass on this track with the current generation car. Do you need to exercise a little more patience at Dover than you used to with the old car?
"Dover is a challenging race track no matter what car you are driving. But we found out in the first race that once you get up into someone else's wake -- their buffer -- the car doesn't feel as secure, doesn't feel as comfortable without having the air going over it, the little amount of air that does go over it. So it's kind of frustrating when you can't gain on somebody. You couldn't go to the top and try to pick up any time around the top because it's just too long around up there and the cars are too tight. That's when my guys helped gain me the track position and ultimately won me the race."
Especially at Dover, is there a different mindset that you need to take on racing the current Sprint Cup car, as opposed to a Craftsman Truck or a Nationwide Series car?
"I believe there's a way that you drive the trucks and there's a way you drive the Nationwide Series cars. That's full-out, as fast as you can go. The harder you go, the faster you can go and it's such a momentum game with those two. You have to pace yourself in the Cup cars a bit. You have to slow them down. You can drive them hard for the first three or four laps. Then you have to start backing off, start slowing down, slowing up your entry, slowing down the center, just kind of moseying around the corner, trying to make the thing stick in one particular groove. I've found something that's worked for me earlier this season. You know, we're gaining on the car every week, and a bunch since the start of the season. But I think a lot of it is a little bit of driver. You've got to stay calm when you can. You've got to get going when the time's right and not get too excited before then or you are prone to make a mistake."