Kyle Busch: Batteries Are Fun
Recently, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) founding sponsor Interstate Batteries ran a contest on its official Facebook page in which consumers were asked to send in their favorite photos of themselves having fun in the sun (#BatteriesAreFun).
If Kyle Busch was to submit a photo, it very well might be from a beautiful March afternoon earlier this year where he was having fun in the Southern California sun. In particular, it was victory lane at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where he brought home his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season, which came in Interstate Batteries colors, nonetheless.
So as NASCAR’s top series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301, Busch is hoping he’ll add another photo or two in victory lane of some midsummer fun in New England.
Busch has enjoyed plenty of success at the “Magic Mile,” particularly at the start of his career when he scored a Sprint Cup win in July 2006 to go with eight top-10s in 18 starts. He’s coming off his strongest year to date at the New England track, where he finished second in both 2013 Sprint Cup races contested at New Hampshire to give him six career top-five finishes there. Outside the Sprint Cup ranks, Busch has four wins, one pole and five top-five results in eight NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Loudon to go with three wins, one pole and six top-10s in seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
In addition to Busch’s growing list of successes at the 1.058-mile oval, both races at New Hampshire serve as a homecoming for Marshfield, Vermont-native Dave Rogers, crew chief for Busch’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
While Rogers has reached victory lane at his home track in the Nationwide Series in 2008 with former JGR driver Tony Stewart, Busch would like nothing more than to bring Rogers a coveted Sprint Cup victory, but also for all the Interstate Batteries dealers and distributors from New England and across the country.
With the marathon-like 36-race Sprint Cup schedule, Busch and Rogers don’t have too much time for any lengthy trips to the beach. However, they’ve had Sunday circled on their calendar in hopes of another photo opportunity depicting their fun in the sun in victory lane at New Hampshire.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What do you think about the upcoming New Hampshire race?
“Loudon is tricky for me. For some reason, I never figured it out with our last car. With the COY as I called it (car of yesteryear), we were pretty decent there. Seems like with our Gen-6 Toyota Camry, it drove more like the COY and we had two great finishes there last year – I was second both times. We would certainly like to turn those seconds into wins, though. So, it’s been one of those places that’s just kind of tricky, sometimes, to figure out for me – just the flatness of the corners, how hard do you get into the corner, how much brake do you use, how much do you let the car roll, how hard to get back on the gas – there are so many different things you’ve got to work through at Loudon. I’ve got one of the best teammates in the business to help me with that with Denny (Hamlin). I definitely use him a lot when we go there on those weekends. We were fast there both races last year. We’d certainly like to get up in the top-five and contend for better finishes at Loudon with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”
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.”
Do you approach Loudon as a speedway or a short-track race?
“Loudon is definitely a short-track race. It’s a lot like Phoenix. You have some good speed down the straightaway but definitely a lot of braking getting through the tight, paperclip-shaped corners.”
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.”
DAVE ROGERS, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
As a native New Englander, New Hampshire has always been a homecoming race for you and a track where you won in the Nationwide Series in 2008. What does New Hampshire Motor Speedway mean to you?
“There are a lot of memories there. I love going back to the Northeast, but I also like to go back there and race. It’s very exciting for my entire family. My boys are old enough to where they can fly up on the JGR plane with me and hang out with my family and friends from up there, so it’s just a really neat experience all around when we get to race at New Hampshire and I’m hoping we can get our Interstate Batteries Toyota to victory lane to make things even better.”
When was your first trip to Loudon? Was it as a fan?
“I was there for the inaugural Nationwide Series race (in 1990). The first four years that the Nationwide Series raced at New Hampshire, we were there. I was also there for the inaugural Cup Series race at the track. The one race I remember like it was yesterday was when Joe Nemechek and Dale Earnhardt Sr., raced door-to-door for the last few laps and put on a great show for the fans. I don’t remember exactly what year that was (1992) but it was a long time ago.”
You won the 2008 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire as a crew chief for Tony Stewart. What did that mean to you to go to victory lane that day?
“We went to inaugural Nationwide Series race there and we sat in the stands as fans and had a great time as a family. Then you go to 2008 and you go there as a crewmember and my father was there and you get to go to victory lane and share that experience with him. That was special. I think it was the first time my Dad had ever been to victory lane for a NASCAR race. It was really exciting and very emotional. We got that win with Tony Stewart, who is a good friend of mine. Tony made it really special for me. He gave me the firesuit after the race and congratulated my whole family, so it meant quite a bit to me and to my entire family.”
When was your first trip to Loudon working on a NASCAR team?
“The 1999 Cup Series race with the 20 car was my first race back to Loudon as part of a team. It was Tony’s (Stewart) first Cup race there, as well. That was the first time I worked on a car as part of a team at Loudon.”
Was there anyone back home in Marshfield, Vermont who helped you become who you are today?
“I’ve been blessed enough to be surrounded by great people my whole life. I look up to my dad more than anybody. He wasn’t really big into racing, but I see a lot of his personality in me. He taught me to never quit or give up, to never be satisfied with second. That motivates me. He’ll be at the race with us again this weekend and that will be a lot of fun. I had some great teachers at Twinfield High School (in Plainfield, Vermont) – some great people who just really taught me and my classmates about what the books say, but also how to be a respectful person. I had some really great leadership from up that way and, hopefully, they’ll be watching.”