Kyle Busch: Earning His Stripes
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season heads to the 28th race of the season this weekend, one thing is for certain: Kyle Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens 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 race in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs – Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway – that Busch will have the Outrageously Dependable green-and-white-striped colors of Interstate Batteries along for the ride on his No. 18 Toyota.
There isn’t likely a team in the garage that has faced more adversity this season than the Interstate Batteries team. After losing Busch for the first 11 races after being injured on opening weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the No. 18 team rallied back in several ways. First, it brought home four wins over the summer months, along with rallying to make it into the top-30 in the driver standings, solidifying Busch’s spot in the 2015 Chase field.
After a solid ninth-place finish in the Chase opener two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, the next bit of adversity struck last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. With Busch running in the top-10, a right-front-tire issue sent Busch into the outside SAFER barrier and eventually to the garage for repairs. The team returned to the track as quickly as possible, but the result was a disappointing 37th-place finish.
There is some good news on the horizon as the Interstate Batteries team heads to the first cutoff race of this year’s 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. However, Busch sits only one point out of the 12th and final transfer spot, so even a solid finish could vault him into the Contender Round that begins next weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The Dover stats for Busch and his Interstate Batteries team are impressive – two Sprint Cup wins, five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins. Busch has led 1,018 laps in his previous 21 Sprint Cup starts at Dover, an average of almost 50 per race.
Busch will look to finish what he started in his first trip this season to the “Monster Mile” back in June, when he had a strong run in just his second event back from injury. He ran third with 30 laps to go before an unfortunate incident with a lapped car caused an accident that ended his race early.
So, as Busch and his Interstate Batteries team try to advance to the next round of the Chase, they look to build on recent strong runs at Dover in hopes of closing the deal with their green-and-white-striped Interstate Batteries Camry Sunday afternoon on the Delmarva Peninsula. Busch and the No. 18 team will need to continue to earn their stripes in order to be a “contender” in the 2015 Chase following Sunday’s grueling 400-miler.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What will be the team’s goals this weekend at Dover?
“We just need to execute as a team. Dover has been a good place for me. We ran really well there in June until we got in an accident late. I know Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and all the Interstate Batteries guys are working hard to have a good car off the truck and get us off to a strong start this weekend and, hopefully, we can finish off a strong run there this time.”
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 turns 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’ 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 Xfinity 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.”