Joe Gibbs Racing
Fifty Would Be Nifty (as Would a Road-Course Win for No. 18)
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Just like a month ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Kyle Busch is looking to cash in on a two-for-one situation during Saturday’s Zippo 200 at The Glen NASCAR Nationwide Series race on the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
By winning the July 16 New England 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire, the driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) scored his record-tying 49th career Nationwide Series victory and his 100th win overall in NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup (22), Nationwide (49) and Camping World Truck (29).
In Saturday’s race at The Glen, Busch will look to break a tie with the legendary Mark Martin and score his 50th Nationwide Series victory, while also scoring his first road course win in the Nationwide Series for the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota team.
Busch himself has one Nationwide Series road course win, which came in Mexico City at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit – but that victory came with the No. 20 JGR team and his current Sprint Cup crew chief, Dave Rogers, calling the shots on the pit box.
Of Busch’s 49 Nationwide Series victories, 36 of them have come with the No. 18 team. And the Busch/No. 18 combo have won at restrictor-plate tracks, as well as ovals of 2 miles, 1.5 miles, 1.33 miles, 1.25 miles, 1 mile, .75-mile and .5-mile in length. But, surprisingly, Busch and the No. 18 team have never found victory lane together on a road course.
He and crew chief Jason Ratcliff are hoping to change that this Saturday. Not that they haven’t been close, mind you, as Busch piloted the No. 18 Toyota to runner-up finishes at The Glen in 2008 and 2009, while notching a fifth-place result last year.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
You have a chance to score your 50th Nationwide Series victory, as well as get your first road-course win with the No. 18 team this weekend at Watkins Glen. Talk about that.
“It’d be great to get our 50th win this weekend. Tying Mark Martin at 49 at New Hampshire was awesome, especially since he came to victory lane and we were able to do a photo together. He’s a class act and has done so much for NASCAR, I was just honored to have him be a part of it. Obviously, we’d like to get that 50th win this week and, if it happens, great, and if not, we’ll go on to the next one. We’d really like to get a road-course win with the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team. I was able to win at Mexico City in 2008, but that was with the 20 team. I think, with the 18 guys, we’ve won just about everywhere but a road course, so it’d be nice to check that off of the list. They build great cars and I know Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) is already working on strategy. I think we’ll have a shot at it.”
Do you enjoy road-course racing?
“I love road racing because it’s almost like an off weekend to me. You get a chance to turn right and left and be kind of crazy. You try not to go off course, but it does happen and you get a chance to rebound as quickly and smoothly as you can. For me, it’s just a matter of going out there and relaxing and being as patient as I can be behind the wheel of the car. Sometimes, driving it hard isn’t the smoothest way around. You just try your best to get through the corners smoothly without losing your momentum. I was able to learn that in a short time period.”
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
Overall thoughts on Watkins Glen as you look for Kyle’s 50th Nationwide win and the first-road course win for the No. 18 team?
“One thing we haven’t been able to do is get a road-course win. We’ve run well. We obviously ran well this year with Michael (McDowell) at Road America and, with Kyle, every year we’ve run well at Watkins Glen. We’ve finished second a couple of times and Kyle’s obviously a great road-course racer because he’s won Sprint Cup races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. So I don’t think there’s a better place to get number 50 than a road course because it’d be the first road-course win for the 18 team. I’m looking forward to it. I think our road-course cars are good. I think Michael showed that at Road America. Kyle can get around The Glen as well as anybody, so I think we’ve got a chance at it.”
Is there anything that was learned at Road America that can translate to Watkins Glen?
“They are a lot different due to the fact that Road America is more like Montreal in that the corners are more what you would call slow-speed corners. However, Road America does have a carousel like Watkins Glen. But, Watkins Glen is unique because it has the esses and you come through there at high speed, so you look at the aero platform of the car as much as the mechanical platform. At Road America, you can focus mainly on mechanical because the corners are slower. Goodyear is bringing the same tire to Watkins Glen, so I think having been on that tire, we’ll have a few notes that will apply to that tire. I don’t think they’ll be exactly alike, but I think the baseline that we start with at Watkins Glen will be similar to what we had at Road America.”
How much are you thinking about fuel strategy heading to a road course, compared to an oval?
“It’s different. We’ll approach it a lot different than we did last week at Iowa from a pit-strategy standpoint. You have to have that track position when it’s all said and done. You don’t want to get caught on pit road. You want to try to pit under green. You don’t want to get caught under the yellow flag and you haven’t been to pit road and your competition has because track position is so key. At the same time, you’ve got to play that gambling game when it comes to fuel and fuel mileage. You have to make that as best you can. You’re always thinking about strategy. We’ve got Road America under our belt and I felt like we got a pretty good handle on our calculations for caution to green laps. It’s a gamble. It all comes down to guys willing to look at caution summaries and you just try to gamble based on what we’ve seen in the past. What throws the biggest variable in there is that this new car does not race like the old car does, so the caution summary you can almost throw out the window. We’ll put our poker face on this Saturday and go after it. I like taking a shot at it. I like pitting knowing that you can’t make it on fuel and knowing that you have to buy three laps. There’s some kind of fun in that intensity, knowing that you have to play everything right to the edge to make it work. That’s a lot of fun. If you make it, it’s a lot of fun. If you fail, it’s miserable. The most rewarding things out there are the ones that have the highest risk. So, we’ll put some risk on ourselves and, hopefully, we’ll come out on top at the end.”