Mission18 Deploys in Fontana, Calif.
That mission is simple – bring home the 27-pound hunk of corrugated metal known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy when the 36-race schedule concludes in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
While his eyes are set firmly on the big prize, the next stop for Busch is Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Busch’s Sprint Cup record at Fontana is impressive. Since scoring his maiden victory there in September 2005, he has rattled off 10 top-10 finishes in 15 races at the track. In addition to his one Sprint Cup win at Fontana, Busch also has five Nationwide Series wins (October 2008, February 2009 and 2010, October 2010, and March 2011) at the 2-mile oval.
A rough start to the season saw Busch and team finish 34th at season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and 23rd the next week at Phoenix International Raceway, and they quickly found themselves 31st in the Sprint Cup standings after the second race of the season.
However, Busch and the No. 18 team have been cool under pressure the last two weekends as they recorded a fourth two weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a runner-up finish last weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The finishes vaulted them 21 spots in the standing over the last two weeks as they head to race number five this weekend in Fontana 10th in points.
As Busch and his fellow Sprint Cup competitors make their return to Fontana this weekend, he and the No. 18 team look to continue their climb up the series standings and would love nothing more than to accomplish another important mission – their first victory of 2013.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
After a tough start to the year, does it feel like you’ve gained back the momentum you need over the last two weeks?
“I felt like we really started that momentum during the last 10 races last year. But the start of our year was disheartening, for sure. We’ve had really fast racecars everywhere we’ve gone so far. Fontana is another place where I’ve always fared well over the years, and I’m hoping we can finally get that victory we’ve been looking for this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”
You’ve already been to a mile and-a-half track at Las Vegas with the new car. Will there be some things you can take from there that you can use this weekend on a similarly styled track?
“I think so. We probably had the most productive test session we’ve ever had on that Thursday in Vegas. We had a decent race there but our team, and really all of the teams, have so much more to learn about this new car on every type of track we go to. I think we actually put on a good show in Vegas where there was a lot of good racing. I thought there was good racing throughout the field. There were times where guys were side-by-side – there was some passing and there was some passing for the lead on the racetrack even though I was the one getting passed for the lead. This new car – I like driving it because you can drive it a lot more like the old car we had years ago where you could just abuse it a little bit and try to drive a little bit harder. The old car was all about being smooth and precise and, this one here, you can make a little more speed by trying a little harder.”
What does it take to be successful at Fontana?
“It’s a fast racetrack and you just have to be able carry a lot of speed through the corners. You’re in the corner for a long time but, the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways. It’s a big, fast racetrack and I’m hoping we can get the Interstate Batteries Camry back to victory lane there like we did at Michigan a couple of years ago for Norm Miller (Chairman, Interstate Batteries) and all of their distributors and dealers.”
Do you enjoy racing at Auto Club Speedway?
“I like California. It’s fun. It’s really wide and it’s kind of flatter than Michigan, so it’s a little harder to kind of get a hold of, but you can really spread out. We’ve been seeing a lot of guys all the way down at the white line. We saw guys all the way up at the wall. It always seems to be a really good race there. It’s a really fun racetrack. It’s widened out and it’s become where you can race all over it and, with the race being as long as it is, you need to take a lot of time working through traffic and being able to have a good car and all that. It’s the same thing every week. California is just another one of those racetracks that seems to suit Jimmie (Johnson) really, really well. He’s been in contention to win the past eight races there, I think, and he’s probably won four of them. You have to hit it at the right time in these races as far as your adjustments go. Everywhere you go, but at California, too, it’s all about the second-to-last pit stop and the last pit stop and making the right adjustment to carry you to the end of the race.”
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last several years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”
What do you remember about that night in 2005 when you captured your first Sprint Cup win at Fontana?
“We ran in the top-five all day long but we really didn’t think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant racecar. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I’ve ever driven a racecar that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn’t believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast.”