Being a Las Vegas native, Busch might know a thing or two about wild cards
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 15, 2013) – Each January, the National Football League opens its playoffs with what is called “Wild Card Weekend” as four teams that did not win their division but still earned playoff berths get the chance to advance toward their ultimate goal, a Super Bowl championship.
Being a Las Vegas native, Busch might know a thing or two about wild cards. But, heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, there probably isn’t a track on the circuit that presents as much of an unknown as the mammoth 2.66-mile oval. As he sits in fifth place in the Chase standings, 37 points behind series leader and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, Busch knows this could be a weekend that could make or break his year, as well as that of his fellow playoff participants.
Busch has conquered Talladega just once in his career, his lone win coming in April 2008. In his 17 starts at the track, he has five other top-15 finishes and four Talladega outings that ended in an accident. So, the Las Vegas native knows the winner of Sunday’s 500-mile race will need to have a strong car and some good fortune in order to survive the seemingly inevitable multicar accident on NASCAR’s longest track.
The bottom line for Busch and the M&M’s Halloween Toyota team, however, continues to be the fact their fate still depends on other drivers – oftentimes not even their JGR teammates – if they are to find success at Talladega this weekend.
If Busch has learned anything at the restrictor-plate tracks, it’s that he must be good to be lucky. He’s comforted in knowing he has exceptional equipment underneath him, thanks to the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota provided to him by JGR, a “scary” proposition for the M&M’s Fun Size Halloween-themed car when you are in a championship battle with five races left in the Sprint Cup season.
So, as NASCAR prepares for its version of “Wild Card Weekend,” Busch hopes to survive another Talladega race as unscathed as humanly possible, then head to the final four-race stretch of the Chase with a solid shot at bringing home his first Sprint Cup championship.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do Talladega and even Martinsville present the chance for a shakeup in the standings?
“Certainly, we’ll know a lot about the standings after this week, and a little bit more after Martinsville as we head to the final three. I was in a good position in points going into Talladega in 2011. We crashed, and then we went to Martinsville and we got crashed there. It’s tough, and you’ve got to be able to pull through in all of these races and you’ve got to have a little bit of luck go your way. You’ve got to have the execution of everything go your way. It starts with coming off the hauler and getting good practice sessions going, qualifying well, trying to always stay up front, and then put yourself in position for a chance to make it through this weekend with a decent finish. At the same time, you can’t count on this weekend to be able to tighten the points.”
Do you feel like you have a team that can put it all together to win this championship?
“There’s only one way to find out and that’s to run these races. Certainly, we want to, we need to, you know you have to, but there’s also anything that can happen in this sport and we’ve seen that time and time again over the years, where you don’t expect something to happen and then all of a sudden something does happen. So, just be ready for anything, especially going into Talladega this weekend.”
Will you know who the players for the championship will be after this weekend?
“I think many of us have said that from the very beginning. You just have no idea how Talladega will turn out. All you can do is focus on what you can control, get your car driving as well as you can in practice, go out there and hope you can stay out of the big wreck and bring home a decent finish.”
Does being a former race winner at Talladega offer you any sort of advantage over the competition?
“It doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.”
What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega?
“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. At Talladega, 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 a lane 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 not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”
Are superspeedways more mentally draining than other racetracks?
“At Talladega, the physical demand isn’t that big of deal. You can run around here all day long and not break a sweat, really. Once you get down into the nitty gritty of the race and try to play the chess game that goes on all day, you’ve got to really pick and choose your spots, and thinking all the time what kind of move you are going to make at the end. It really wears on you a little bit, mentally. I don’t know if you call it racing or what to call it, really, but it’s definitely a different dynamic at Talladega and Daytona."