KYLE BUSCH JUST WIN BABY HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2009) -- There is no shortage of scenarios for how the final eight spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship shake out during Saturday's night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint...
JUST WIN BABY
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2009) -- There is no shortage of scenarios for how the final eight spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship shake out during Saturday's night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Only the top-four drivers in the championship point standings -- Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin -- are locked in the Chase, while only 122 points separate fifth-place Carl Edwards from 14th-place Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
Due to the incredibly close gap between the 10 drivers vying for a spot in the Chase, it could take hours deciphering the different ways each driver could mathematically get in based on where other drivers finish.
For Busch and the M&M's team, who are 37 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth, the attitude heading into Richmond is simple: in the words of the immortal Al Davis, "Just Win Baby."
Busch and crew chief Steve Addington know they can't control how things go for other drivers and their cars, so they will focus all their attention -- as they do every week -- on just winning. They'll also need to have flawless pit work much like the M&M's over-the-wall team had in the most recent race on Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., and let the chips fall where they may.
The .75-mile oval at Richmond might be the perfect place for Busch to claw his way back into the top-12 as he swept the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races there in May. He also has seven top-five finishes in nine starts at Richmond, including three runner-up results.
So, after seven months and 25 races, it's come down to one race, 400 laps in length in the capital city of Virginia. And Busch, Addington and the M&M's crew know that winning gives them their best chance to land a coveted Chase spot. Put simply: "Just Win Baby."
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is there any track you'd rather go to this weekend than Richmond with a Chase spot on the line, based on your past success there?
"I would say Bristol or Richmond. That's about it. Those seem to be our places that we can really run strong at. Charlotte is another one. At least it's not a place like Pocono or somewhere that I might struggle pretty badly -- the Brickyard or something like that. I feel good about it. I'm excited about our chances. I feel like we can go out there and try to win another one. That's all we can do with our M&M's Camry to give us a chance to put ourselves in the Chase."
How do you handle not over-thinking this weekend's race, not putting yourself into situations and not getting too aggressive with so much pressure on the line?
"We just have to do what we need to do. It's not these two races -- Atlanta or this race coming up at Richmond -- that will put us in the Chase. It's more of the season that we've had that's kept us out of it. We've struggled a little bit this year. We haven't been as good as we've needed to be. Unfortunately, we're in this predicament. But last year, we were one of the best cars all season long. We were solidly locked in within the Chase. Sometimes, things change in a year. But we're trying to get ourselves back in position to get ourselves a place this weekend, run strong, hard, and come out of Richmond with a good finish."
A couple of weeks ago, after Bristol, you said your target number of points was 3,160. That would be 14th-place finish this week, if you don't lead a lap. Is that still your target, or have you had to adjust that at all?
"I still think that's a pretty good target. It's going to be tough though, because not only do we have to beat the 83 (Brian Vickers), but we also have to beat the 17 (Matt Kenseth). We need those guys to finish worse than 25th, or something like that. It's going to be hard. It's definitely not going to be easy. All we can do is do the best we can. If we win the race, or if we get a top-10 or even 14th, we did all we could do. That's all we're gonna have. It's not going to be Richmond that keeps us out. It's going to be the rest of the year that we've had our struggles. That's going to be what kept us from being in the Chase."
Do you keep an eye on the guys around the bubble spot?
"There's nothing you can do. You can't change what they're doing. You can't make race calls for those guys and tell them that they need to pit, or whatever. There's really no point in going through that frustration and trying to figure out where those guys are. You just see what it boils down to at the end of the day."
Everybody around that bubble spot is going to have a little different strategy in this race. Can you describe your strategy and how it may change during the race?
"Our strategy is just going to be the same as it's been the whole year. We just go out there and try to run the best we can. Fortunately we won the Richmond race in the spring there, so we feel like we can go back there and do well. I've run well there about every time I've been there.
If we have another good, solid run, like a top-10, a top-five run, we really don't need to change anything. During the race, we'll have to do everything we can to try to win the race. If there's gonna be, like last time, a caution with 50 to go, some people in the back came in and put tires on and raced their way up through there. Fortunately, the race went green the rest of the way, where I had enough of a lead where I didn't have to race any of those guys. If something like that comes around this time again, we'll have to see where we're at in the running order, how many laps to go, see if we need to make a pit stop to get ourselves the finish we need, or if we just stay out. It all just boils down to how the race is looking."
How different has the car been each time you've raced at Richmond over the past few years?
"The car is a little different because we've been learning things. The track is a little different because it's been giving up grip. And the tire is different because they brought a different tire here. Everything's always different every time we come back to the racetrack. There's really not much that's the same. Last spring, we sort of unloaded somewhat similar to what JGR had there last year, but we were out to lunch. We really had to change a lot of stuff, and everybody was changing a lot because the tire and track don't match, and it's so loose up off the corner that it's hard to get any forward bite. Everybody was working really hard on trying to fix that, and we figured out some things in the spring there and won the race, so I'm hoping we can keep that momentum."