KYLE BUSCH Oh No, It's Pocono HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 2, 2009) -- Just when Kyle Busch thought it was safe to look ahead on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, he instead finds himself thinking, "Don't look now, it's Pocono (Pa.) ...
Oh No, It's Pocono
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 2, 2009) -- Just when Kyle Busch thought it was safe to look ahead on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, he instead finds himself thinking, "Don't look now, it's Pocono (Pa.) Raceway."
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has plenty of reasons to cringe at the thought of coming back to the 2.5-mile triangle, the site of Sunday's Sprint Cup Pocono 500. For starters, he finished a dismal 43rd and 36th, respectively, in the 2008 races in the Pocono Mountains.
The June 2008 Pocono weekend was especially harsh for Busch as the Las Vegas native suffered an accident in Saturday practice and another accident in Sunday's race that forced the M&M's team to post its worst finish of the season.
In their return trip to Pocono just six weeks later, Busch and the M&M's team appeared to have gotten past the June gloom, running in the top-five late in the race. But they ran out of gas with just two laps to go to turn a strong performance into a disappointing finish.
Busch will find plenty of encouragement for this weekend during a Thursday visit to Mars Snackfood US headquarters in nearby Hackettstown, N.J. There, the M&M's driver and the entire No. 18 JGR team will have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Mars associates approximately 50 miles from Pocono, and many of those same associates will travel to Pocono on Sunday to cheer for Busch.
Despite the two tough finishes at Pocono in 2008, the M&M's team will hope to glean some positive vibes from the Mars associates as there are still plenty of reasons for optimism for their upcoming visits to the 2.5-mile triangle at Pocono, as well as other upcoming races on the Sprint Cup schedule.
Aside from the aforementioned empty gas tank in the August race, the No. 18 team improved greatly after its first trip to Pocono last season. Even more reason for optimism for the talented 24-year-old Busch can be generated by a peek ahead on the Sprint Cup schedule. Following last June's Pocono race, the M&M's team went on to score victories at three of the next five venues -- Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The only two tracks where Busch did not win during that five-race stretch last season were Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
So as the M&M's team enters the weekend with cautious optimism, Busch and Company know if they have a strong result Sunday at Pocono, they've got a lot to look forward to as they head into the summer months on the Sprint Cup Series schedule that treated them so well in 2008.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Both races at Pocono last year were tough for you and your team. What is your outlook this weekend?
"Hopefully, we can get some much better results than last year. Especially the first race, we had plenty of issues. We ran a lot better there last August, but ran out of gas there at the end and it ruined our day. We've brought a different setup this year to the flat tracks, since we struggled on them last year, and it's seemed to help so far. We'll see about this weekend. We just haven't had any luck, so I'm hoping we can get that back and get some good finishes during the summer months here. We're getting to some of my favorite racetracks, except for Pocono. It's not like we haven't been running well. We're just not getting the finishes to show for it."
Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What's the most difficult part of the track for you?
"The hardest part of the track for me is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest. Turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn't go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you're eight to 10 miles-per-hour slower than the guy on your outside and they are just going to blow right by you going down the straightaways."
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
"Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one we just can't get the cars to turn down there because there's so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a buck-40. Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you've got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it's tight."
Why have your restarts been so good this year in all three series?
"All my restarts aren't great. I've had some that have been pretty bad. There might be one or two in a race that don't go exactly as planned but, typically, it's expecting the unexpected. You just have to plan it all out. You spend the whole time under caution. Some guys spend the whole time under caution just concentrating on getting their tires clean and getting a good start. They don't concentrate on what comes after getting that start. They don't worry about what happens down in the first turn or what may happen the whole lap after that. There are all kinds of different scenarios that you run through your mind. Do you go high? Do you go low? Do you stay behind the guy? Do you ride? What do you do? Who's in front of you? Who is behind you? Who do you race? How do you race that guy? There are so many different things that go into a restart to try to plan all that out. It gets pretty complicated, sometimes."
How hard is it to not spin your tires on a restart?
"It's very difficult to keep the tires from spinning, especially on old tires -- (with) 30-lap or 40-lap tires you stay out on. It's extremely difficult because they're hot, they're slimy. You run over all the trash and debris and the dust. You always try to make sure your tires are as clean as possible. Besides all that, you have to concentrate on not getting on the gas too hard and spinning them. Once you spin them, they're pretty much spun, and it's hard to gain it back. It kind of depends on where you're at in line and how hard you can get on it, who you have to watch out for in front of you, if they're going to spin their tires. Again, it's another strategy game and how you play it."