Kyle Busch: Hoping to be a ‘Contender’ at Dover
With two races completed in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, one thing is for certain: Kyle Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire Interstate Batteries team have been Outrageously Dependable® in the face of adversity.
So it’s only appropriate as the Sprint Cup competitors head to the third Chase race – Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway – that Busch will have the Outrageously Dependable colors of Interstate Batteries along for the ride on his No. 18 Toyota.
In both the Chase opener two weekends ago at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, and the second Chase race last Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Busch and team fell behind, only to rally for top-10 finishes that have them fifth in the standings heading to the concrete mile oval at Dover this weekend.
In particular, Busch and his team showed their championship resolve last weekend at New Hampshire. After suffering heavy damage from a lap-187 accident, they never gave up, executing several pit stops over the final 100 laps to get Busch’s Camry in good enough shape to make it to the end. Not only did they make it, but the Las Vegas native made several spectacular three- and four-wide passes on the outside to vault himself from 20th to an eighth-place finish over the final seven circuits.
While satisfied with his solid start to the Chase, Busch will head to Dover – statistically one of his better tracks – in hopes of scoring a win, and thus an automatic bid to the Contender round as one of the final 12 drivers left in NASCAR’s playoffs.
But this weekend, Busch will try to keep the early Chase momentum going by shooting for his sixth top-10 finish in his last eight events at the racetrack known as the “Monster Mile.” Busch has led an impressive 1,011 laps in his previous 19 starts at Dover. Even more impressive is that, while wins have eluded Busch in the past three Sprint Cup races there, he has led 533 of a possible 1,200 laps completed in those races.
So as Busch and his Interstate Batteries team look to move on to the next round of the Chase, they will look to build on strong recent runs at Dover in hopes of closing the deal with their green-and-white-striped Interstate Batteries Camry Sunday afternoon on the Delmarva Peninsula. Not only does he want to be a contender during Sunday’s race, but also in the Contender round following Sunday’s 400-miler.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is this the kind of start in the Chase you were hoping for?
“I’ve said it for years – if I could finish second in every single Chase race, I’d take it and win a championship over winning a single Chase race that doesn’t mean as much as a championship would. Now I think that still applies to this new system somewhat, but as the rounds go on and guys get eliminated, you’re likely going to have to win to get yourself to Homestead and have a shot at the championship. It’s all about the prize at the end. It’s only two races, and you would always strive to be better if you aren’t in victory lane, but we’ve done exactly what we’ve needed to start off the Chase. This team showed a lot of fight last week and will keep working hard each week and hope we can keep advancing and be in the hunt toward the end. Hoping we can continue that this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”
What does it take to be successful at Dover?
“Dover, being a concrete track, is challenging. They’re all a challenge, but Dover is especially so, just because of the way you have to run around that place. The way tires sometimes wear out. The way the rubber gets put down there. You’ve got to be fast through the corner. Two-thirds of your lap time is through the turn rather than down the straightaway, so you definitely have to make sure you have a good-handling racecar – one that’s good in the beginning of the run on low air pressures and one that’s good at the end of the run on high air pressures, and even through traffic, too. Some of the most challenging times are when you’re trying to get through traffic with guys.”
Do you enjoy racing at Dover?
“It’s definitely a fast racetrack. It’s a fun racetrack, too. It makes it interesting when you get to traffic, when you have to pass guys, when you’re kind of falling down into the hole and jumping back up out of the hole to the straightaways. It’s a good place to race. It’s a competitive racetrack and, when the rubber gets laid down, it definitely changes the whole atmosphere and the whole way you run around that place.”
Does going from concrete to asphalt change the way the car handles?
“We don’t run on an asphalt racetrack that’s banked like that or shaped like that. The mile tracks we go to that are asphalt are Phoenix and Loudon, and they are relatively flat. The concrete just changes the feel a little bit, of course, and changes the way you approach the racetrack, too.”
You have two Sprint Cup wins and a competitive history at Dover. What is your outlook with your history there?
“I love that place. It’s fun to race there and it’s a place I’m looking forward to going to with our Interstate Batteries Camry. I went there when I was 18 to race in the Nationwide Series for my first time. It will scare you the first time you race there. You carry so much speed at that racetrack and, for it to be a mile in length and for it to be concrete – concrete surfaces that we race on, anyway, are a little bit slick. It’s definitely a roller-coaster ride and you need to treat it like it’s fun and not to be scared of the place, I think, because you can get so much out of that place. There are two ways about it – you can probably be really, really good there, or really, really bad there. Some days you’re going to be better than others, obviously, with how you can get your car set up compared to the competition.”