Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kyle Busch Heads to Richmond, His Best Statistical Track

Bowing at Richmond has become a regular occurrence for Busch (Getty)    
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 26, 2011) – Kyle Busch – winner of 93 races among NASCAR’s top three divisions – has never been described as average.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is not only better than average at most venues on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, he’s well above average when it comes to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400.

Why would he be described at well above average at Richmond? Busch’s numbers at the .75-mile short track tell the story. His most recent win there last May was the second of his career to go with four runner-up finishes and an amazing 10 top-fives in just 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. The Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 5.2, tops among active drivers at Richmond, where he sits ahead of JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, whose average finish there is 8.0. Busch has completed all 4,810 laps available to him. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 4,253 laps (88.4 percent), second-most among active drivers.

While he has always had strong runs at Richmond, Busch’s first Sprint Cup victory there came in May 2009, where he became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983. Since then, Busch has finished no worse than fifth at Richmond during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, recording wins in both spring races and fifth and second, respectively, in the fall races the past two seasons.

While his birthday isn’t until this coming Tuesday, the soon-to-be 26-year-old would like nothing more than to add another Richmond win to his resume and celebrate his birthday a few days early in victory lane on Saturday night at Richmond.

Do you enjoy racing at Richmond? “I like going to Richmond. It’s a fun racetrack. It’s a nice short track that we get to go and run at. For me, the success I’ve had there, I’m not sure why, but it’s just been a good place for me to run. I’m excited about getting back there to get another run in the top-five and try to go after a win with our M&M’s Pretzel Camry like we did there the last two spring races.”

Gibbs always has a great car for Busch at Richmond (Getty)
You’ve had plenty of success at Richmond over the years with an impressive average finish of 5.2. Is there a way you drive the racecar there that has helped you? "At Richmond, you try to be easy on the brakes getting in so you don’t lock up getting into the corner or get too loose getting into the corner. It’s really particular there. The center (of the corner) always seems to be a little tight with these cars. And the exit, today, has been so loose. Nobody has any forward bite coming up off the corner, so it’s pretty bad. That should make for a pretty interesting race. It’s a fun short track. It’s pretty fast and it usually spreads out, and you’ll get a lot of grooves to choose from. You can pretty much count on the usual exciting short-track race when you go there.”

What is it like to go to short tracks like Bristol and Richmond and know you are always one of the guys to beat? “It’s pretty cool. You go to those places and I’m, like, ‘Alright, well, we’re here to win this weekend, obviously.’ If you can put it all together, you’re going to be the guy to beat. Probably Joe Gibbs Racing is the team to beat here since Denny (Hamlin) won the fall race and I won the other one and finished second to Denny in the second race. You wouldn’t say I’m the guy to beat at a place like Michigan or something like that, where my record is horrendous. I don’t know. It gives you a little bit better pep in your step and a little bit more confidence. It gives you a better feeling for how your weekend should go, barring any catastrophic failure or something like that. Richmond is the same. I expect to go there and I expect to run top-three at Richmond. You always want to go to the racetrack to win, but you have some realistic expectations, first. I feel like, yeah, we can win this weekend, but we’re going to start with a top-five. Yeah, I can win at Richmond. I’m going to start with expecting a top-three.”

How do you communicate what you feel in the race car, and does that help you at short tracks? “That’s always been there. I have a good knowledge of what I’m feeling. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) doesn’t know exactly what I’m feeling in the car, so I know what a track bar does, what a wedge does, I know what air pressure does. I know what all that does, so when they ask me about a change, they’re like, ‘Let’s do wedge,’ and I’m like, ‘No, that’s not really going to help with what I need.’ Sometimes Dave can look at the timing and scoring and say we’re two-tenths off from where we need to be and I can say, ‘Yeah, I just need half-a-round of wedge.’ Then he says, ‘We need something a lot more than that. We’re going to have to swing at this thing to get it right.’ That’s when you rely on information from both sides. It’s like what I’m feeling is this and what Dave is seeing on the stopwatch is that, so you have to work back and forth. We work together on those decisions.”

Busch is using a strong Martinsville car this week (Getty)
You sit sixth in the standings, now. When do you start looking at where you are in the points? “I think you actually want to try to do that sooner rather than later, knowing some things happen like they did at Talladega that are sometimes out of your control. It’s about Charlotte time – about the end of May – when you get into the season and you look at where you’re at. You can pretty much say you’re going to be four or five positions one way or the other – you can be four positions better or five positions worse once you get down to Chase time. It can go either way. If you’re really good, you can be four better. If you kind of hit a roadblock and have some bad races, you can probably be about five worse. That’s how we look at it. Right now, I think we’re solid fourth (Busch currently is sixth in the standings), or something like that. I don’t even watch or even pay attention to them right now. If you have good results, then they’ll take care of themselves.”

Busch Chassis Selection
Chassis No. 302: This chassis will make its second career start in Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. No. 302 made its debut earlier this month at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where Busch started 11th and led a race-high 151 laps before bringing home a solid third-place finish.

- True Speed Communications PR

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