Starting from Scratch at Kansas
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – It differs greatly from how Webster’s Dictionary defines it, but the great Albert Einstein is famous for a particular definition that captures the essence of the word even better. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
How does this apply to Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) for Saturday night’s 5-hour Energy 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City? Simply put, whatever he’s tried at the 1.5-mile oval since it was repaved in October 2012 has not been working. He’s had three races there since the repave, none of which he’s finished.
With that, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers are starting from scratch this weekend with a brand-new car. And they’re attacking the track in the Heartland of America with a different approach with the hopes that a fresh outlook will produce some vastly different results.
Kansas isn’t the only track that has given Busch fits during his career, now in its 10th year as a fulltime Sprint Cup driver. Places like Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth are just a few that Busch struggled at early in his career, only to bring home wins from those places in recent years by taking a different approach than he did originally.
In fact, Busch has won at 17 of the 23 tracks at which the Sprint Cup Series competes. The only six tracks Busch has failed to reach victory lane in Sprint Cup competition are: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas. While there are six tracks where he’s yet to score a Sprint Cup win, Kansas is the only track where Busch has yet to record a top-five finish.
Despite the dry spell at Kansas in NASCAR’s top series, Busch has tasted success at Kansas in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition – as is the case at most racetracks on the Nationwide schedule – with a victory in 2007, a runner-up finish in 2009, and a pair of third-place runs in 2006 and 2010. The best he has to show for his 13 visits to Kansas on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
So, as Busch heads back to the Heartland this weekend for the first Sprint Cup night race at Kansas, he’ll hope that starting with a clean sheet of paper will lead to some better fortune when the checkered flag drops Saturday night.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Kansas is a place where you’ve traditionally struggled over the years, particularly since it was repaved. What is your mindset going into the weekend there?
“I think the mindset has to be completely different. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and I have worked together to start over, from how we set up the car to how I approach it. We are fortunate that we are able to do that because we do already have a win and are also sitting well in the standings. I don’t exactly know what is going to get us going in the right direction there, but what we have done in the past hasn’t worked, obviously. There are many places that we’ve been in my career that I’ve struggled at, but we’ve gone back to the drawing board and, thanks for Dave and the guys, we’ve made huge strides at a number of places. I’ve been terrible at places like Martinsville, Pocono, Michigan, and others, but we’ve had some solid finishes at those places by trying different things. It’s important to learn some things this weekend since Kansas is a Chase (for the Sprint Cup Championship) race and, hopefully, we can just bring home a decent finish and learn what we need to do in the fall when a good finish will be even more important. We’ve got a new SNICKERS scheme on the car this weekend, as well, and we would love to get those guys a good finish, as well.”
Why has Kansas been so difficult for you over the years?
“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that. It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at this place a lot like Michigan. That’s a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they repaved it, along with Kansas.”
With Denny (Hamlin) winning last weekend at Talladega, how important is it to already have two JGR cars virtually locked into the Chase?
“It’s very important. Obviously we’d like to see Matt (Kenseth) get a win, as well and we can think about what we need to do late in the season. With two cars in, the 11 and the 18 teams can try different things and hope we can figure out some things so that we are ahead of the curve when the Chase comes around. You also hope, when you try things, you hit on something that gets you another win or two, as well. That’s what we are here for is to win.”
Were the new aerodynamic rules the cause of the up-and-down performance for Joe Gibbs Racing on the intermediate tracks thus far?
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the aero rules. I think it’s just to do with the new ride-height rules. The box used to be so big, and now it’s way bigger. It just allows more opportunity for teams to experiment and to come up with different things that make their cars go fast. I don’t discount the time and effort and everything that my guys put in at the race shop, and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and all the work that they do, but there are teams out there right now that have worked a little smarter than us and figured it out a little earlier than us. But, if now is the time to struggle a little bit, certainly earlier in the season is an OK time to do that. You do need to pick business up by at least week 10 or so and get yourself rolling. I’m confident in all of our guys that we can do that. We have a lot of smart people who will get us where we need to be, for sure.”
You are just 29 laps away from leading 10,000 in your career. What does it mean to be close to reaching 10,000 laps led in the Sprint Cup Series?
“It’s pretty neat, you know, anytime we’re able to set records, break records, math – however you want to say it. It’s always fun. It just means you’re accomplishing things in the sport, various things in the sport. There are a lot of things that I want to accomplish, still, that I haven’t. Whatever things come along our way that we’re able to accomplish is awesome, it’s fun, it’s great. It means you are a namesake in the sport and that, hopefully, things continue to go down that path. Whether it stops at 10,000 or not, I doubt it will, so hopefully we just keep going.”
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