Joe Gibbs Racing press release
Comeback Kid in New Hampshire
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 21, 2011) – At the outset of the 1992 presidential election, William Jefferson Clinton, with just 3 percent of the vote, finished fourth in the Iowa Democratic Caucus. He was beaten handily by longtime Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who not surprisingly won 76 percent of the vote, while 12 percent voted “uncommitted,” and 4 percent chose Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas.
It appeared as though his campaign was in trouble, but Clinton rallied in the New Hampshire Primary one week later as he finished a solid second behind Tsongas despite trailing by a large margin in most polls leading up to Election Day.
We’ll see what it happens to take this year, but it’s good when you can win a couple and you hope you don’t have a bad race.
In his speech in New Hampshire that night, Clinton called himself the “Comeback Kid” and, from there, he rolled to primary victories on Super Tuesday in March, won the nomination, and went onto become the first Democrat elected to two terms in The White House since Franklin Roosevelt.
What does this have to do with Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)?
Like Clinton in 1992, Busch is in the middle of a campaign. But the Las Vegas native is simply looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. And, like Clinton, his “campaign” was badly damaged in the Midwest, although Busch’s problems came in Monday’s rain-postponed Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Despite running in the top-15 for much of Monday’s race run, an untimely encounter with debris late in the race, coupled with his car running out of gas two laps shy of the finish, relegated Busch to a disappointing 22nd-place result. He arrived at Chicagoland seeded first in the rankings but fell to ninth in the point standings with Monday’s result, 19 markers behind new leader Harvick.
So, like Clinton, Busch is looking for redemption in New Hampshire and, more specifically, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, site of Sunday’s Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup Series race. Busch doesn’t have to win, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt, but he certainly needs a strong showing to get his championship chase back on track.
He has had plenty of success at the “Magic Mile” throughout his career, having scored a Sprint Cup Series win in July 2006 to go along with six top-10 finishes in 13 starts. He’s also scored three wins, one pole and four top-five results in six NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Loudon to go along with two wins, one pole and five top-10 finishes in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the 1.058-mile oval.
Clinton’s theme song in his ride to the White House in 1992 was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” from which a portion of the chorus may help Busch and the M&M’s team as they try to put Chicagoland behind them – “Yesterday’s Gone, Yesterday’s Gone.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Based on your experience in the Chase, do you feel you’ve learned what to do and what not to do to be successful over a 10-race stretch? Can you apply what you’ve learned in years past to your championship run this year?
“I think so. I’ve been in the Chase five out of my seven full seasons. But every year is different. When Kurt (Busch, older brother) won the championship in 2004, I think he had a wreck in Loudon and had an engine let go at Atlanta, and had a couple of bad finishes. But when you look at last year, for example, I think Jimmie Johnson had an average finish of 6.4 or something like that. It just tells you how consistent you have to be in this Chase to beat those (No.) 48 guys because what they’ve done to win five championships in a row is incredible. You aren’t going to get a sixth-place average without running in the top-five and winning some races. We’ll see what it happens to take this year, but it’s good when you can win a couple and you hope you don’t have a bad race. But you have to build that possibility that you could have a bad race or two. With Talladega coming up next month, you know anything can happen there, and same with the repave out at Phoenix late in the year. With the remaining mile-and-a-half tracks, you can bank on just running the best you can at those places and, hopefully, finish in the top-five.”
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
“Loudon is a pretty particular racetrack. It’s tough. It’s not like Phoenix before the repave. 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.”
Even though things are shaken up after last week’s ending at Chicago, do you think there’s a favorite driver in the Chase right now?
“I don’t think there was a clear-cut favorite when it started, or after just one race, since a lot can happen. There are guys who run well week-in and week-out and then maybe at a couple places they might stumble a little bit. It’s just about trying to minimize your damages in those kinds of days. For us and the 18 team with the M&M’s guys, we feel confident that there are certainly some strengths for us throughout the Chase and there are certainly some weaknesses, too. Knowing those weaknesses, we have to make sure we can come out with the best possible day we can in those situations.”
How do you assess your team at this point as you prepare for the final nine races?
“I feel like we’re a lot better than we’ve ever been and you can’t get down after one week where some things happen out of our control with running into debris and then just not having enough fuel at Chicago. We had a strong car all day and the result didn’t reflect what kind of a car we had. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and Chris Gayle (team engineer) and Ron Denton (team engineer) and all of the guys on my team have done a tremendous job at being able to put together great cars on and off the racetrack. I have a lot of confidence in the guys back at the shop, along with the guys who work on it, to the guys who do everything at the racetrack. From pit stop to pit stop, we’re a lot more consistent. From race to race, we’re a lot more consistent where, before, we’d have a bad race and not be able to rebound from it, to where this year, when we had a bad race, we’ve been able to rebound.”
Is some of that your own development as a driver?
“Is some of that my own development as a driver from then until now? You can say a little bit of that, certainly. But I’d stem a lot of it on the team guys and them preparing great racecars. It’s good when you can have that consistency between pit stop to pit stop, race to race. It makes yourself a lot more confident within the team instead of blowing up about it and getting all up in arms about it. For me, it makes my job a lot easier than having to worry about coming down pit road and whether or not we’re going to make the right change to move ourselves forward. I feel confident when I come down pit road that Dave (Rogers) and the guys will make a good change for me and we can move ourselves forward.”
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 and the July race this 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.”