KYLE BUSCH Figuring Out the Flat Tracks HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 23, 2010) - Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) at the beginning of 2008, Kyle Busch has won an impressive amount of races. In fact, he's captured 14 of his 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup...
Figuring Out the Flat Tracks
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 23, 2010) - Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) at the beginning of 2008, Kyle Busch has won an impressive amount of races. In fact, he's captured 14 of his 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories since joining JGR and Toyota.
But the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for JGR has had one type of racetrack that has been his Achilles heel during that two-and-a-half year span - the flat tracks.
Still, the talented 25-year-old finds three good reasons to be optimistic leading into Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, a flat 1.058-mile oval about an hour's drive west of Boston. Those reasons would involve three flat tracks - Phoenix International Raceway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway - all venues where Busch struggled prior to 2010, but has shown dramatic improvement this season under the guidance of new crew chief and New England-bred Dave Rogers.
At Phoenix, Busch led a race-high 113 laps before a late caution and resulting pit strategy relegated him to an eighth-place finish. At Martinsville, a place where he had struggled mightily in the past, Busch was running second in the closing laps before another caution and subsequent bottleneck restart led to him getting caught up in an accident not of his making. Despite only having a crumpled No. 18 Toyota and a 22nd-place finish to show for his efforts, Busch felt it was his best race ever at Martinsville. Finally, just two weekends ago at Pocono - a track Busch has always considered his most challenging - the Las Vegas native sat on the pole and finished a close second to teammate Denny Hamlin for his career-best finish on the flat and tricky 2.5-mile triangle.
Busch has a July 2006 win to his credit at New Hampshire with his former Hendrick Motorsports team, and he has four top-five finishes in 10 career Sprint Cup starts at the Magic Mile. But, in light of Busch's struggles on flat tracks with JGR prior to 2010, he and Marshfield, Vt., native Rogers hope the confidence boost from this year's strong outings at Phoenix, Martinsville and Pocono will translate into a strong run this weekend.
With Interstate Batteries along for the ride on Busch's No. 18 Toyota Camry at New Hampshire, Busch will be counting on his recent flat-track success to continue, and he'll dig down deep to show just how outrageously dependable he can be.
KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
"Loudon is a pretty particular racetrack. It's tough. It's not like Phoenix. It's not like Dover at all. It's a flat racetrack and it's really typical of a tough racetrack to pass on. You can't just have a really good racecar and finish up front. You have to keep track position. You have to keep up all day and make everything work. We're excited to have Interstate Batteries back on the car there this weekend and we would really like to get Norm (Miller, Interstate Batteries chairman) and everyone a win and get back on track a bit from the last couple of weeks."
Are you going to be able to use this weekend's race at New Hampshire as a test for the track's September race, which kicks off the 10-race Chase for the Championship?
"No, we're going to go there right now with what we feel like will run well. We're not going to do anything that's crazy. We're going to try to run our Martinsville car and take some of the Martinsville and Phoenix stuff that we learned and try to apply it."
What do you think makes a complete driver?
"You have to be able to win at all the racetracks because there are so many racetracks that we race at. They're all different. The biggest thing is you have to have all that going for you. You have to be fearless. You just have to go after spots that are out there that are open that you can get through."
What's different about New Hampshire that you enjoy, as opposed to another flat track like Phoenix?
"New Hampshire is a fun track for me, as a driver, even though it was a tough year there last year. It's flat like Phoenix and Milwaukee, but it's a little bit tricky. In order to do well there, you need a car that works on all the different kinds of asphalt the tracks seem to be putting down. You need a car that has a lot of side bite in the rear and front grip to turn easier. At New Hampshire, it seems like I've always been loose into the corner and tight in the center, which is hard to fix, sometimes. I think the team that can fix that the best will have the best car."
Is your approach to this year different than last year?
"We're still going forward. We've had a couple really good weeks followed by a couple of bad ones. Aside from the last two weeks, we've been steady. That's what it takes in this sport. I've learned that you can win as many races and DNF (Did Not Finish) as many as you want, but it's not going to work at the end of the year when you need to be able to be consistent and run top-three, top-five every week. We've done a good job with that. I feel like we can do better. Hopefully, this week we can get back on track again and go to Loudon and have another good run."
Are we unlikely to see rivalries between drivers last more than a week because everyone is now focused on the "big picture" of winning a championship?
"I think maybe it's in the past. It's hard to say. For one, there weren't 20 cars, or 25 cars, every week legitimately having a shot to win the race. Secondly, you had a points season that went from race one to race 36, 48, or however many there were. So you had opportunity. You could throw away a couple of races or whatever, if you really wanted to have a beef with a guy. Now, with the way the Chase is, you have to get through the first 26 (races) and be in the top-12 for the first 26, and when it comes down to the last 10 races, you don't have time to mess with anybody. So you want to make your life as easy as possible in those final 10, where you don't have to race your guts out to try to get by one guy who's a lap down, who's just out there to make your life miserable. It's pretty much why I say that they're dropped and let go. In the first place, you should just try to make sure you don't make any."