‘Double’ the Fun at Darlington
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – If you ask Kyle Busch what he does for fun, the answer is simple – racing is his ultimate fun.
It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there...
What could be more fun than racing for Busch? That would be winning, which doubles his fun. Busch, who turned 26 on Monday, is fresh off his latest win after scoring his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season last weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
The driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will look to double his win total at historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the next stop of the Sprint Cup tour during Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500.
This weekend’s race will mark the first of three races in 2011 that Doublemint will serve as primary sponsor for Busch, as the iconic chewing gum brand’s mint paint scheme will also adorn Busch’s No. 18 Toyota at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August, and the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., in September.
The talented, newly turned 26-year-old conquered the “Track Too Tough to Tame” in May 2008, garnering his first victory at the 1.33-mile egg-shaped oval. And, as he hits town this weekend, Busch also brings with him the distinction of being the youngest Sprint Cup winner in the storied history of Darlington.
While last weekend’s dominant win at Richmond was impressive, even more impressive is the fact that Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire Doublemint team have shown amazing consistency in seven of the nine races contested thus far this season. And, despite engine issues at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and an accident not of their own doing at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Busch and the No. 18 team have been in the hunt for the win each and every week. With his win last Saturday night, Busch moved up to third in the Sprint Cup standings, just 30 points behind leader Carl Edwards. The team is focused on not just getting back into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but mounting a season-ending championship run. It has certainly proved thus far to be worthy of being considered a legitimate title contender.
Should Busch have the good fortune of doubling his Sprint Cup win total at Darlington on Saturday night, it’s been said, for the record, that it most certainly will double his fun and double his pleasure, as well as that of the entire Doublemint team.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What makes Darlington a track that is too tough to tame?
“It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now. We’re looking forward to the challenge with our Doublemint Camry this weekend. You’ve really got to be able to get as close as you can to the wall in order to carry your momentum through the corners because you’ve got to make the straightaways as long as you can. The track is very narrow on entries and exits, so you’re always trying to round the place as much as you can. It’s very one-groovish. You can’t really run side-by-side there. Anytime you get alongside somebody, you basically have to let them go. It’s a very big give-and-take-type track. It’s a lot harder to pass, now, with the fresh asphalt than it used to be. It’s really aero-sensitive, now, to where it used to be more about mechanical grip and getting your car to handle well and handle over the bumps well and keep the tires on it. Now, you’re restricted off the car in front of you and are trying to find some air, basically.”
Is your team where you want it to be in order to be successful these next three months?
“I’d have to say we’re close. There are definitely some areas for improvement, no doubt. The guys have done a really, really good job all year long up to this point. We’ve been able to have consistent racecars. Each and every week, we’ve been able to be good on the racetrack and have solid efforts. If it hasn’t been for an engine failure at Vegas or a wheel loose at Texas, or the wreck at Talladega, we could possibly have three more top-10s and maybe even some top-five finishes in there, too. At Texas, I think, we were a second-place car to Matt (Kenseth). At Vegas, we were a second-place car to Tony Stewart, even though Carl (Edwards) won. Maybe we could’ve snuck out with one there, or a third or something. Talladega is always a crapshoot anyway. It’s relative to where you are. We feel pretty good.”
What do drivers mean when they say you have to “race the track” at Darlington?
“You can’t really pass there. It’s so difficult. So, you run your laps until you get to a pit stop and try to get your guys to have a good stop for you so you can jump a couple of guys. Pit stops become really important there, and track position, and trying to stay up front.”
I won the first year there with the new car and it’s evolved a lot since then...
Being a former winner, what does it take to win at Darlington?
“I won the first year there with the new car and it’s evolved a lot since then, and I think it was just because everyone was new to the car. In 2009, a lot of people got a lot smarter and, for us, we fell a little bit behind and, last year, we ran well and still kept the car off the wall and got a top-10 finish out of it. You just have to be patient. You just have to bide your time, and I wasn’t very good at that in 2009, but much better at it last year. You’ve got to make sure you keep working on your car.”
After Kevin Harvick won his second race at Martinsville, he thought that, with the new wild card system, two wins pretty much assures you of being in the Chase. Do you feel that way getting your second victory last weekend? Do you feel locked into a Chase position, right now?
“Two wins is probably going to be borderline. I think if you get three, you can probably guarantee yourself a spot. If you get four, yeah, you locked yourself in. I feel like he’s probably pretty certain, there. I think two is kind of borderline. Right now, if Harvick and I fall out of the top-10, we’re going to use the two up. There are still a lot of races until the cutoff when we go back to Richmond in the fall, so there’s long way to go. There are plenty more wins out there for somebody to get.”
It seems, with this new format, that a driver who wins a lot of races can lock himself into the Chase. Do you feel that’s the case?
“That’s true. No doubt about that. I guess that was kind of the point. In 2009, I think I had four wins and missed the Chase by only eight points. That would have locked us in this year. I think the same thing was true for (Jamie) McMurray last year. He had three or four wins but missed the Chase. He would have locked himself in, too. That’s kind of the idea behind the changes NASCAR made for this year.”