HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – One year ago this weekend, the track known as the “Magic Mile” certainly lived up to its billing for Kyle Busch and his Interstate Batteries team.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), used hard work and a little bit of luck last July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to bring home what would be the second of three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins in a row during a summer hot streak that would ultimately springboard him to the 2015 Sprint Cup championship.
After winning the previous week at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire Interstate Batteries team were shining examples of Interstate’s slogan of “Outrageously Dependable” at New Hampshire after what looked like their race was going to be ruined by an unscheduled pit stop on lap 244, which dropped them to 20th after running in the top-three all race long. But just as quickly as misfortune struck, good luck followed. Busch hustled to get by leaders Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick and, just as he did that, the caution flag flew. While the rest of the leaders needed to pit for fuel, Busch had already made his final trip to pit road. He was able to hold the lead for the final stretch of the race, bringing home another victory that he would add to the following week by winning the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Last year’s New Hampshire victory added to Busch’s first Sprint Cup win at the 1.058-mile oval, which came in just his third start there in July 2006. And, the victory came in dominating fashion as he led 107 laps. After that 2006 win, the Las Vegas native left with plenty of confidence that he could get multiple wins at the “Magic Mile” as his career progressed. As it turned out, he had come agonizingly close over the 17 races he competed there before his next win last year.
The driver of the Interstate Batteries Toyota posted five top-five finishes in those 17 starts between New Hampshire wins, including three runner-up finishes in a row in 2013 and 2014. In all, Busch has eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 22 starts at the track.
Outside the Sprint Cup ranks, Busch has four wins, one pole and seven top-five results in 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Loudon to go with three wins, one pole and six top-10s in eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races there.
So, as NASCAR’s top series heads to the Northeast for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301, Busch will look to rekindle his summer hot streak from one year ago. There will be plenty of Interstate Batteries distributors and dealers across New England cheering him on as Interstate Batteries and JGR continue their 25th year together.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
“Loudon is a Martinsville-like short track, but it’s just over a mile. It’s a little more spread out, but there’s some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove. To be fast at Loudon, you have to have good brakes and you have to roll the center really well and get that good forward bite off the corners and make sure it sticks. The biggest thing about Loudon is, you keep losing front turn and that’s why the brakes go away, just because the corners are longer and more sweeping than you need to keep those front tires around you.”
In last year’s race, you pitted later in the race because you thought you had a tire going down. What do you remember about the race finish?
“I just remember that I thought I chewed the right-front tire off of it because I went into the corner and the thing just went straight one time, so I was like, ‘Man, I’m down to cords now, that’s it, it’s done.’ We shot to pit road and got it changed there and evidently it was oil on the racetrack that just made the car slip so bad right out from under me. We got a lucky break and I hauled butt, man, those five laps I ran were five qualifying laps through traffic trying to get back up to the front and pass (Kevin) Harvick to stay on the lead lap. That was our saving grace and ultimately we were able to win. It was really special last year. Being able to take home another trophy from there would be pretty cool. We have a lot of Interstate Batteries dealers and distributers up in that part of the country, so it was a great opportunity to be able to have them come celebrate with us in victory lane and we would certainly like to do it again this weekend.”
The New Hampshire race is one of the shortest on the circuit. How do you approach that race knowing you might have a little less time to get to the front at the end?
“Essentially, at Loudon, you’re looking at how good your fuel mileage is and you have to look at when you have to make your last pit stop since that’s what everyone looks at. You end up running it almost like a road course race because you do want to be the first guy on the last round of pit stops to pit. You want to get in there, get your tires and fuel, and then stay out the rest of the race and keep your track position since it’s so important there. It’s just a challenging race because it is so hard to pass there. You can be two-tenths faster than a guy and not be able to pass him because everyone typically runs the same speed. You’ll have it where the leader might be a tenth better than the second-place guy, but everyone is separated by so little that it takes a mistake on someone’s part in order to pass them there.”
When you make a mistake at Loudon, does it cost you a little bit more because you have less time to recover?
“You don’t because you’re always on edge there. You’re trying to go as fast as you can into the corners, as deep as you can into the corners while rolling as much speed, or just a bit higher than everyone else so you are able to get back to the gas sooner. You’re going harder than everyone else in order to make the straightaway a little bit longer and get your momentum built back up. It’s definitely a challenging racetrack – not one of my best racetracks, I’ll admit that. I have won there twice so, if we get a good car, I guess I’ll need to have a really good car, apparently. Then we might have a shot to win there.”
- Krista K. Massey
Former Group Vice President, Director of Sponsorships and Event Marketing
SunTrust Banks, Inc.