August 5, 2009
Hoping Right Turns Help M&M’S Team Get on Right Track
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 5, 2009) – Something will happen this weekend at the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course that only happens twice a year for drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – they’ll have to make their 3,400-pound stock cars turn left and right.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), hopes that Sunday’s Heluva Good! at The Glen – the second of two road course events this season – will also be the “right” medicine to get him back on track for a berth in the 2009 Chase for the Championship.
Last season, Busch brought home his first win of any kind at the 11-turn, 2.45-mile layout in upstate New York, and in doing so, capped off a sweep of both Sprint Cup races that featured left and right turns, as Busch won at the series’ first road course venue – Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
The Las Vegas native wound up leading 130 of the 202 total road course laps available in Sprint Cup in 2008. As if that weren’t enough, Busch also captured his first road course victory of any kind in March when the NASCAR Nationwide Series competed at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City, where Busch led twice for a total of 22 laps on his way to victory lane.
That the talented 24-year-old returns to road racing this weekend at Watkins Glen is a good thing. He and the No. 18 M&M’s team currently sit 13th in the Sprint Cup standings, 101 points behind 12th-place Greg Biffle, the man currently holding the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship.
With only five races remaining before the Chase begins Sept. 20 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, a good run is needed to vault Busch back into championship contention. Thankfully, the left and right turns of Watkins Glen provide the perfect avenue to get on the “right” track and rally Busch back into Chase contention
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What kind of mindset do you have heading into a road course race, especially since you’re also working toward the goal of making the Chase for the Championship?“I’ve been working hard to learn how to manage a race more than I have ever before, and to be more patient than I was earlier in my career. That’s really the strategy on a road course and for our goal of making the Chase. I’m still going to be aggressive and go for it when it makes sense and if we have a shot to win, but there’s a time for that and a time to ride, too, and just trying to keep the big picture in mind a little bit more than I have in the past.”
Do you enjoy road course racing?
“I love road racing because it’s almost like an off weekend to me. You get a chance to turn right and left and be kind of crazy. You try not to go off course, but it does happen and you get a chance to rebound as quickly and smoothly as you can. For me, it’s just a matter of going out there and relaxing and being as patient as I can be behind the wheel of the car. Sometimes, driving it hard isn’t the smoothest way around. You just try your best to get through the corners smoothly without losing your momentum. I was able to learn that in a short time period. But even I would admit that I didn’t think I could win both road course races like we ended up doing last year.”
You are the defending winner of this race. What’s the key to bringing home a win at Watkins Glen?
“Track position was very important last year and we were lucky that qualifying got rained out and we started on the pole. But we qualified second at Infineon so, hopefully, we can have a good qualifying lap and have some good track position from the start. We had a fast car too. Last year, the race went green for the first 35, 40 laps, whatever it was. The field got kind of spread out. Luckily, we had the track position we did, but we were pretty quick too, and we could pass some guys as well. But when you get to a guy and you don’t get by him right away, and you start following him, then you start learning his line, and then you can’t pass him because then you’re trying to do something better than him – it’s easy to start over-driving your car. Hopefully, we have another car that turns pretty good and exits the corners pretty good so we can pass.”
How did you go from no road course experience to road course success in a matter of a few short years?
“I do the Bondurant School out in Phoenix each year prior to going to the Infineon race, just to try and get toned back up and get my hands acclimated because you normally get some blisters driving the road courses. Mexico City last year was a big help, since I got my first road-course win there a few months before winning at Sonoma. That helped my confidence and experience a lot on the road courses.”
What impact does team owner Joe Gibbs have around the race shop, especially when the guys are pushing hard to make the Chase?
“Joe (Gibbs) being back in the shop has been good. Just being able to talk to him, having him talk to me and stuff like that, and he sort of offers a little help here or there, and his leadership makes a big difference. He really knows how to motivate people and keep them focused. Last year, we really felt that he was a big part of turning the organization around, just trying to keep up on everything and stay on top of things. It seems like we’re falling behind a little bit and I’m not blaming Joe for that at all. He’s trying to work as hard as he can to understand why and keep everybody working hard and on the same page to ultimately bring us back up to where we need to be, and that’s winning races. Joe’s been a big influence. He’s big to everybody at the race shop and there’s no reason why we don’t love to have him around.”