KYLE BUSCH BUILDING TOWARD 2011 HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 17, 2010) -- If Kyle Busch is hoping to get a jump start on 2011 -- which we all know he most certainly is -- he need not look further than Sunday's Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ...
BUILDING TOWARD 2011
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 17, 2010) -- If Kyle Busch is hoping to get a jump start on 2011 -- which we all know he most certainly is -- he need not look further than Sunday's Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Recent history says that there could be a lot riding on the outcome of Sunday's 400-mile race for Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), knowing that a win Sunday could well be parlayed into a bonafide Sprint Cup championship run in 2011.
A year ago this weekend, Busch's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin finished off his 2009 season with a win at Homestead and has ridden that momentum all the way to this weekend's championship finale. Hamlin, the winningest Sprint Cup driver this season with eight trips to victory lane, holds a 15-point lead over four-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson heading into the Homestead finale.
Busch, meanwhile, looks to improve by leaps and bounds over last year's eighth-place finish, his career best in five outings at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval and one that bettered, by far, his previous four finishes of 41st, 28th, 20th, and 19th, respectively.
On top of trying to bring home one final win for 2010 and gain some valuable momentum for 2011, Busch and his M&M's teammates are focused on gaining as many positions in the final Sprint Cup standings as possible. While the top three of Hamlin, Johnson, and Kevin Harvick, along with fourth-place Carl Edwards, have separated themselves from the pack, there's quite the battle for the final finishing positions of fifth through ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings.
The difference in the standings between fifth-place Matt Kenseth and ninth-place Tony Stewart is only 77 points heading into Homestead. So even though the championship battle will be tight, there are several finishing positions within the top-10 that are far from settled. With three wins on the season --tied for third-most among all Sprint Cup competitors -- Busch is currently seventh in the points, just 36 markers behind Kenseth.
So, before the curtain falls on the 2010 Sprint Cup season shortly after darkness falls on Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, there is certainly a lot at stake for not only the championship contenders, but even Busch, the talented 25-year-old from Las Vegas. Among other things, he'd love nothing more than to give his thank-you remarks a couple of spots later at the Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony in his hometown early next month. That would mean a solid top-five finish in the final Chase standings and something to build on in 2011.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Homestead has not been a great track for you, statistically, but last year you challenged for the win before scraping the wall and finishing eighth. Is Homestead a place you finally have started to figure out?
"We ran a lot better there last year than where we finished. Denny (Hamlin) and I battled on that last restart and I just couldn't quite stay ahead of him. Track position is big there and, once he got out in clear air, he was gone. I was trying hard to get back ahead of him and ended up scraping the fence. I've never run that well there before, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) really gave me the best car I've ever had there. I'm hoping we can have another strong car and finish off the season strong and it can give us some momentum for the offseason and for next year."
Are you looking forward to next weekend's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
"That track hasn't been great to me. Last year was good. I've run well there in the Truck Series. I won the Nationwide race there last year, and I was running second with a few laps to go and got in the fence and finished eighth (in the Sprint Cup race). Homestead is a fun racetrack. It's real challenging because the way the race changes from the beginning to the end, and the way things change from the beginning to the end of your runs. You run the bottom, then you go to the top. You're always moving around. You're always thinking. It's a cool racetrack. The sun is going to play havoc on our eyes getting down into turn one during the race. All in all, I'm looking forward to it and, hopefully, there's another two NASCAR championships to celebrate down there for myself with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series as well as Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the Nationwide Series -- both owner's titles -- and then, hopefully, helping JGR celebrate the (Sprint Cup) driver-owner championships with Denny Hamlin."
You have your fewest Sprint Cup starts at Homestead. How do you expect to do this weekend?
"It seems like I've never been able to finish a race at Homestead. I always seem to run into bad luck there, and last year's race was my best finish and we were like 20th before last year. We ran alright there the year before but ran out of gas at the end and still finished 19th. But, there have been several tracks that I've not run well at before this year and ended up winning the race, like we did at Atlanta, or running well in the road-course races."
Is everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) working together to help the No. 11 team win the championship?
"Yeah, we are. Right now, with Hendrick Motorsports being where they are -- winning four consecutive titles -- who is the last team to win a championship before that? JGR with Tony Stewart (in 2005). So, right now, there's kind of a battle there between the best in the sport, which is Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and all the people who help support us, and Hendrick Motorsports and those guys. Right now, we're trying to do everything we can to best outperform those guys who have won four in a row and bring the title back to JGR. That would mean the past five years it's either been a Hendrick car or a JGR car that's won the championship. There's no reason why Chad (Knaus, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports crew chief for driver Jimmie Johnson) shouldn't be allowed to put all his eggs in one basket, or Hendrick Motorsports should, but it would be no different if Dave (Rogers, No. 18 JGR crew chief) wanted to give my team to Mike (Ford, No. 11 JGR crew chief for driver Denny Hamlin) to make sure they had a better pit stop on pit road. The 11 team is right with us, anyway. They might even be a little bit better than us, sometimes, on pit road. We both have -- all three JGR teams, actually -- have a great working relationship, where we're all one. We all feed off of each other and we all work with each other and we all know that we can be exactly the same as the other guy over there."
Do you need a different mindset to race the current Sprint Cup car as opposed to a Truck or a Nationwide Series car? Will you have to constantly change mindsets since you're racing in all three series one final time this weekend?
"I think the more races I drive in the weekend, it helps me more than anything. I learn a lot about lines and how the track changes, driving in all three, and I think it makes me better as the weekend goes by. I believe there's a way 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 a bit in the Cup cars. 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 in 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, 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."