Don’t look now, but a driver hailing from Las Vegas is on quite the roll in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
After winning two of the last three races, Kyle Busch is hungry for more. Copyright 2015 Autostock Images.
And along the way, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, has certainly lived up to Interstate’s slogan of “Outrageously Dependable,” winning two of the last three Sprint Cup races. He’ll look to add another as the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
Busch added his second win of the season Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and is looking for more at a place where he has seen success before. He brought home his first New Hampshire victory in July 2006, a win that came in dominating fashion in which he led 107 laps. That gave the Las Vegas native plenty of confidence that he could get multiple wins at the “Magic Mile” over the rest of his career, and his next chance comes this weekend.
Objects in mirror may be faster than they appear. Copyright 2014 Autostock Images.
Despite numerous strong runs at New Hampshire in the 17 Sprint Cup starts there since his 2006 victory, none have ended with a celebration in victory lane for Busch. The driver of the Interstate Batteries Toyota has posted five top-five finishes in those 17 starts, including two runner-up finishes in his last three starts there. In all, Busch has seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 starts at New Hampshire.
Busch is coming off two particularly strong seasons at the New England track – second-place finishes in both 2013 Sprint Cup races along with second- and eighth-place finishes, respectively, in the 2014 stops. Outside the Sprint Cup ranks, Busch has four wins, one pole and six top-five results in nine NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Loudon to go with three wins, one pole and six top-10s in seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
Last July, Kyle started from the pole at New Hampshire and finished second. Copyright 2014 Autostock Images
Busch has only seven Sprint Cup starts thus far in 2015 since returning from injury in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. After two wins in the last three weeks, the next order of business is New Hampshire as he looks to continue his march toward a berth in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs. His two wins would normally lock Busch into the Chase, but he still must finish the regular season in the top-30 in the driver standings in order to be eligible. He was granted a Chase exemption after missing the first 11 races of the season while recovering from injuries suffered at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. With his two wins in-hand, including the maximum 48 points scored Saturday night at Kentucky, Busch’s gap to 30th-place Cole Whitt in the driver standings is down to 87 points with eight regular-season races remaining.
So, as NASCAR’s top series heads to New Hampshire for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301, Busch will look to continue his hot streak in front of the many Interstate Batteries distributors and dealers across New England.
Crew Chief Adam Stevens (left) and Kyle Busch have two wins this season. Copyright 2015 Autostock Images
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
“Loudon is a Martinsville-like short track but it’s just over a mile. It’s a little more spread out, but there’s some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove. To be fast at Loudon, you have to have good brakes and you have to roll the center really well and get that good forward bite off the corners and make sure it sticks. The biggest thing about Loudon is, you keep losing front turn and that’s why the brakes go away, just because the corners are longer and more sweeping that you need to keep those front tires around you.”
If you won at Loudon again, what would you do with the lobster the track gives each Sprint Cup winner?
“I haven’t won at Loudon since they’ve been giving away lobsters so, if I won there again, I don’t know what I would do with it. Samantha (Busch, wife) says that we should put it back in its natural habitat. We’ve been so close there recently so, if we were able to get it done, we’ll worry about that Lobster part later. Taking another trophy home from there would be pretty cool. We have a lot of Interstate Batteries dealers and distributers up in that part of the country, so it would be great if we were able to get the opportunity to be able to have them come celebrate with us in victory lane.”
Kyle prepares for a practice run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2014. Copyright 2014 Autostock Images
How important was it to get the points deficit to the top-30 down to double digits? In other words, how important was it to break through that century mark and give yourself a shot with eight races to get it done?
“Obviously, it’s on our mind but I’m not thinking about the points gained when we win. When we win, I know we did all we can do. That’s awesome. And it is what it is. They lie wherever they lie. It’s more of the 17th -place finish at Daytona and you know that those other guys can have decent finishes at those places, as well. So, because it’s just such an unknown that you kind of look at the points and you’re, like, ‘OK, how many did I gain – I think I only gained six or seven or something last week on the top-30.’ But this week was a good week. So that’s what matters most, for us to go out there and perform, and perform at our best at the level that we know how to do, and that’s what I’ve said since I came back. If we do everything right and do it the way we know we can, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to average a 14th-place finish, or whatever it’s going to be so I can be in the Chase, be in the top-30. And now with two wins, man, I never would have imagined we would have gotten two wins this fast. But I’ve got a great team and they have done a really good job. Well, when I won at Sonoma, it was like my 11th-best track of the 13 or 14 races I had left in the regular season after I came back. It was way down at the bottom, and Kentucky was probably one of my top-three. So, we have won at the top and the bottom of the list so far, so, not too shabby. Hopefully we can keep going.”
The New Hampshire race is one of the shortest on the circuit. How do you approach that race knowing you might have a little less time to get to the front at the end?
“Essentially, at Loudon, you’re looking at how good your fuel mileage is and you have to look at when you have to make your last pit stop since that’s what everyone looks at. You end up running it almost like a road-course race because you do want to be the first guy on the last round of pit stops to pit. You want to get in there, get your tires and fuel, and then stay out the rest of the race and keep your track position since it’s so important there. It’s just a challenging race because it is so hard to pass there. You can’t be two-tenths faster than a guy and be able to pass him because everyone typically runs the same speed. You’ll have it where the leader might be a tenth better than the second-place guy, but everyone is separated by so little that it takes a mistake on someone’s part in order to pass them there.”
When you make a mistake at Loudon, does it cost you a little bit more because you have less time to recover?
“You don’t because you’re always on edge there. You’re trying to go as fast as you can into the corners, as deep as you can into the corners while rolling as much speed, or just a bit higher than everyone else so you are able to get back to the gas sooner. You’re going harder than everyone else in order to make the straightaway a little bit longer and get your momentum built back up. It’s definitely a challenging racetrack – not one of my best racetracks, I’ll admit that. I have won there in the past so, if we get a good car, I guess I’ll need to have a really good car, apparently. Then we might have a shot to win there.”