TEAM INTERSTATE: Kyle Busch Back to the ‘Norm’
Kyle blazed to his third victory of the season Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, vaulting him to fifth in the standings and back to his winning ways as the team is already eyeing NASCAR‘s postseason.
Two of those wins have come in the white-and-green Interstate Batteries scheme Kyle will run at Michigan in support of Interstate’s Chairman Norm Miller and the thousands of Interstate dealers and distributors who back him. Those victories in Interstate colors at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, along with Sunday’s win at Watkins Glen, give Kyle a solid position in the win column behind only Jimmie Johnson and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, who have won four times apiece this season.
Kyle hopes to add another victory or two during the final four regular-season races to gain as many bonus points as possible when the 12-driver, 10 race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship gets rolling in September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Recent history certainly bodes well for Kyle’s outlook this weekend. Kyle won the 2011 Pure Michigan 400 in Interstate Batteries colors and finished fourth in June’s race.
As the Chase draws near, Kyle and the Interstate Batteries team will look to use some of their recent momentum to continue the “Norm” – and a win Sunday at Michigan would certainly help solidify their impressive 2013 rebound.
Catch Kyle on the Air
Kyle will be one of the first NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers interviewed Saturday morning on the new Fox Sports 1 Channel (formerly SPEED) when it goes live nationally at 7 a.m. CDT Saturday. Expect his interview to air around 7:18 a.m. Check with your cable or satellite TV provider as channel numbers may have changed. Also, Kyle will appear live in the ESPN pit studio at 11:25 a.m. CDT Sunday before the race.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How much of a difference has it been heading to the August race at Michigan than it was for you a year ago this weekend?
“It’s entirely different. Last year, you were worried about what was going to happen the next week, already. You are trying to get as many points as you can and sometimes you are worrying about it too much. You still try to take the mindset that you take what comes to you because there’s not a whole lot you can do as a driver during the week to change anything. This year, it’s a lot different. We can go into these final four weeks, relax and think about what we need to do in the final 10 races to have a shot at the championship. We’re not worried about the next four races. We’re worried about the final 10. It’s a completely different mindset right now. We can probably try some things to see if they work and maybe have a shot at gaining some more bonus points. This team, they’re ready to go. The guys have done a really good job with the car, preparation and pit stops. You never stop trying to win and we’ll see if we can get our Interstate Batteries Camry back in victory lane at Michigan, something we were able to do a few years ago.”
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?
“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But with the new surface, there is a ton of grip now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now, the tire wear is all out the window and the racetrack is going to be very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it. For me, coming to Michigan, I tend to run well there. For whatever reason, I haven’t had too many great finishes to show for it until two years ago, and then we had a great year there and got our first win that August.”
Over the past 10 races, you’ve scored the second-most points, just two less than points leader Jimmie Johnson in that time. Do you feel like you and your team are gaining momentum at the right time?
“We certainly hope so. We feel like we’ve been competitive all year long. Our qualifying has been very good. We’ve had good racecars and we just continue to try and run up front and keep our car in clean air. We’ve been bringing good cars and we’re on top of our game, but I still feel like there are some areas where we can improve and be even better. If we can do that without overdoing it, then I think we’ll be a contender come Chase time. We’re certainly happy with our three wins. A couple of guys have four wins, of course. But if I have three wins going into the Chase and we could get three wins in the Chase, I would take that deal right now, for sure.”
You won the last race before the track was resurfaced at Michigan but struggled in 2012 there. This past June, you finished fourth. Did you learn something in June that changed from last season?
“Even over the winter, Michigan aged a bit and widened out a little bit more. We struggled on the repaved tracks last season, but we were much improved there in June over last year, so that gives me hope we can do the same this weekend. We struggled to start the race in June and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) threw a ton of changes at the car and finally got to where I could drive it and we were able to work our way into the top-five. We’ll be working hard this weekend since the repave is similar to Kansas, a Chase track, so we want to learn as much as we can this weekend to set us up to have a better run at Kansas in the fall. One of the biggest things on repaved tracks is track position. Dave and the Interstate Batteries guys have worked really hard on our qualifying setup and it’s really showing this year. We’ve been qualifying even better on the intermediate tracks. It will have to start with a good qualifying effort and see what we can learn in practice Saturday.”