Win and You’re In
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 27, 2015) – When it comes to NASCAR’s current Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff format, the term “Win and You’re In” is a weekly goal for those fortunate enough to be part of NASCAR’s 10-race postseason.
With just four races left in the season, and the series kicking off the eight-driver Eliminator Round of the 2015 Chase at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend, “Win and You’re In” takes on a whole new meaning.
For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), winning any of the next three events guarantees he will be one of the four drivers advancing to the winner-take-all finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that will decide this year’s Sprint Cup champion.
All season long, Busch and his M&M’S Crispy team have not been ones to back down from a challenge. After missing the first 11 Sprint Cup races because of injury, Busch stormed back, winning four races over the summer months and climbing his way into the top-30 in the driver standings in order to make this year’s Chase. He was able to slip through the first two playoff rounds, most recently avoiding the “Big One” at Sunday’s elimination race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to escape what he felt was an excruciatingly challenging Contender Round of the Chase for he and his race team.
Now that he’s made it to the final eight, Busch feels he has just as good a shot as anyone to vie for his first Sprint Cup title at Homestead. The quest continues with Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville. The .526-mile paperclip-shaped short track in southern Virginia hasn’t always been a track where Busch has felt comfortable, but that’s changed in recent years thanks to plenty of help from his JGR teammates, along with fast cars provided by the Huntersville, North Carolina operation.
Of the 23 venues that host Sprint Cup events in 2015, Busch has won at least once at 21 of those venues in at least one of NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. There are only two current Sprint Cup tracks – Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Martinsville – where Busch has not scored a victory in any of NASCAR’s top three series.
However, despite the lack of a Martinsville’s exclusive grandfather clock trophy in his vast collection, Busch has plenty of reasons for optimism this weekend as his M&M’S Crispy team keeps getting closer and closer to that elusive win with each return. Even though there is still a blank in the Martinsville win column, Busch’s resume at the track now includes eight top-five finishes and nine top-10s in his 20 Sprint Cup starts there.
So as the season heads into the homestretch, Busch and the M&M’S Crispy team know that when it comes to being championship eligible at Homestead, it’s as simple as “Win and You’re In,” and it all starts Sunday at Martinsville.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You’ve been so close to winning at Martinsville, lately. Are you hoping this weekend you can finally get that first win there?
“I certainly hope so. I’ve led a bunch of laps there but we just haven’t been able to hold it for the end of the 500 laps. It’s certainly a racetrack where you can be leading the race and think you’ve got a shot to win the thing in the last 30 laps, and then get beat on from behind and moved out of the way. It’s certainly a racetrack where it’s indicative that, if you’re just a little bit off, then the guys are going to be right on your rear bumper and trying to get by you. For us, it’s been a challenge, but we’re getting better at it and learning some more as we go along. I wasn’t able to race there in the spring because of my injury, but (substitute driver) David Ragan ran really well there, finished in the top-five. That gives me some confidence that our team has what it takes to get it done there. We would like to be able to have a good run like they did there in the spring, but also take it to the next level with a win for our M&M’s Crispy Camry team.”
What is the key to you getting a win at Martinsville?
“I’d like to think we’re really close. We’ve been good there – especially the last couple of races there, we’ve been really good. It’s a tough racetrack and, anytime you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. It seems like I haven’t quite scienced that out for the last run there. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”
What has this Chase been like with crew chief Adam Stevens?
“Adam (Stevens, crew chief) is a great team leader. He and I, I think we share in that responsibility and I think it’s been a lot of fun this season to work together and to be as good as we have as quickly as we have. I feel like we weren’t really sure whether we were going to be Chase eligible this year at all without getting a win or without getting enough points to be in the top-30. But once we were able to accomplish all those things – this is Adam Stevens’ rookie year in the Chase, so he’s got a lot of pressure on himself as well as me having a lot of pressure on me to be able to make it through those rounds and get to the round that matters, and that’s Homestead.”
Is Martinsville the trickiest of the three races in this Chase round?
“It feels pretty good. I’ve been in this situation up to this week. I don’t remember what year it was, I got spun out at Martinsville and that pretty much ruined that year. I’ve got to get through Martinsville getting spun out or something happening at Martinsville and hopefully being able to move on to Texas and seeing what happens after that. Certainly this is definitely the farthest of most years, I guess of my average is way before this. Again, need to run well at Martinsville and get through that one. That’s probably one of those crapshoot type races because everyone is on top of everyone. Kind of like Talladega, but not quite that bad.”
How do you feel about your championship chances at this point?
“I feel really good about it. I always said if we can just get through the previous round we just came out of that the 18 car is a really strong team and we’re a group of guys that we know we can run good at Martinsville and Texas and Phoenix and get ourselves on through to the next round. I feel pretty confident that we are one of the four that should be in Homestead.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine