HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 18, 2012) – The final finishing position in the box score didn’t nearly tell the story of Kyle Busch’s day the last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon this past July.
After scoring his ninth career Sprint Cup pole, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) jumped out to an early lead. But a pit-road speeding ticket, coupled with pit-stop issues, put the team in a hole early. Despite the issues, Busch & Company rallied back into the lead by lap 197.
But just as Busch hit pit road for right-side tires and fuel under green, an untimely caution waved for the blown engine of David Reutimann, forcing Busch to take the wave-around and start at the tail end of the lead lap in 18th, virtually ending any opportunity at a high finish.
He managed to cross the strip 16th at the wave of the checkered flag, which didn’t nearly indicate that July performance, which was in stark contrast to several disappointing runs Busch has had at New Hampshire since joining JGR in 2008. Now in his fifth season with JGR, Busch has scored just two top-fives in nine races there in the No. 18 car.
Even though his results don’t show it, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers know they hit on something in July, and they have a feeling a New Hampshire win together could be just around the corner – in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300.
Busch had enjoyed plenty of success at the “Magic Mile” at the start of his career, having scored a Sprint Cup win in July 2006 to go along with six top-10 finishes in 15 starts overall.
Outside the Sprint Cup ranks, Busch has scored three wins, one pole and four top-five results in seven NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Loudon to go along with three wins, one pole and six top-10 finishes in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the 1.058-mile oval.
Might this finally be the weekend Busch, Rogers, and the M&M’s team will have things fall into place for them in the form of a magical finish together at the “Magic Mile? If the last trip there is any indication, they could be the ones to watch come Sunday afternoon.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What do you think about this weekend’s New Hampshire race? “Loudon is tricky for me. For some reason, I haven’t been able to figure it out that well there with the current car. The first race there this season was the best car I’ve had there with JGR. We just had some bad luck hit us like we’ve had a lot this year.
With the old car, we were pretty decent there. I remember 2006, I think, one of the last races we ran with the old car – I won that one. So, it’s been one of those places that’s just kind of tricky sometimes to figure out for me – just the flatness of the corners, how hard do you get into the corner, how much brake do you use, how much do you let the car roll, how hard to get back on the gas?
There are so many different things you’ve got to work through at Loudon. I’ve got one of the best teammates in the business to help me with that in Denny (Hamlin). I definitely use him a lot when we go there, but also hope I can help them, as well, this weekend. I know that place is pretty special to Dave (Rogers) and his family, so I’m hoping we can deliver for him this weekend.”
Do you approach Loudon as a speedway or a short-track race? “Loudon is definitely a short-track race. It’s a lot like Phoenix. You have some good speed down the straightaway, but definitely a lot of braking getting through the tight, paperclip-shaped corners.”
The New Hampshire race is one of the shortest on the circuit. How do you approach that race, knowing you might have a little less time to get to the front at the end? “Essentially, at Loudon, you’re looking at how good your fuel mileage is and you have to look at when you have to make your last pit stop, since that’s what everyone looks at.
You end up running it almost like a road-course race because you do want to be the first guy on the last round of pit stops to pit. You want to get in there, get your tires and fuel, and then stay out the rest of the race and keep your track position since it’s so important there.
It’s just a challenging race because it’s so hard to pass there. You can’t be two-tenths faster than a guy and be able to pass him because everyone typically runs the same speed. You’ll have it where the leader might be a tenth better than the second-place guy, but everyone is separated by so little that it takes a mistake on someone’s part in order to pass them there.”
When you make a mistake at Loudon, does it cost you a little bit more because you have less time to recover?
“You don’t because you’re always on edge there. You’re trying to go as fast as you can into the corners, as deep as you can into the corners while rolling as much speed, or just a bit higher than everyone else so you are able to get back to the gas sooner.
You’re going harder than everyone else in order to make the straightaway a little bit longer and get your momentum built back up. It’s definitely a challenging racetrack – not one of my best racetracks, I’ll admit that. I have won there in the past so, if we get a good car, I guess I’ll need to have a really good car, apparently. Then we might have a shot to win there.”
Source: Joe Gibbs Racing: