May 28, 2009
The ‘Monster Mash’
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 27, 2009) – “He did the mash. He did the monster mash.”
Those are not only some of the lyrics from the 1962 novelty hit “Monster Mash,” they’re also exactly what Kyle Busch did to the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field last June at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was the class of the field late in the race a year ago this weekend at the track nicknamed “The Monster Mile.” He led four times for 158 laps en route to his first Sprint Cup victory on the concrete mile oval.
The winner of three Sprint Cup races thus far in 2009 not only knows how to win, but when he does go to victory lane, he generally does it in dominating fashion. Busch hopes to bring home another commanding win for his fourth of the season in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Autism Speaks 400 at Dover.
In five of Busch’s 15 career Sprint Cup wins, he has led more than 50 percent of the race. Most recently, he led 378 of 503 laps (75.1 percent) in his victory March 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Interestingly enough, the Bristol win came in the same car his M&M’s team has elected to bring to Dover this weekend. The other four such wins all came in 2008: Atlanta Motor Speedway near Hampton, Ga., 173 of 325 laps led (53.2 percent); Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., 78 of 112 (69.6 percent); Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., 165 of 267 (61.7 percent); and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, 52 of 90 (57.7 percent).
While he didn’t quite lead 50 percent of the June 2008 Dover race, the Las Vegas native still led the aforementioned 158 of 400 laps (39.5 percent), including the final 74 circuits thanks to fast pit work by his M&M’s team that kept him out front as the race went caution-free for the final 153 laps.
Equally impressive thus far in 2009 is Busch’s penchant for leading laps in all three of NASCAR’s top series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck – where the talented 24-year-old has been at the front of the field more than anyone else.
Heading into this weekend’s events at Dover, where he is vying for a Truck-Nationwide-Sprint Cup trifecta on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Busch has already racked up 2,037 total laps led. He has led 789 laps thus far in the Sprint Cup Series, almost 300 more than points leader Jeff Gordon, who is currently second in laps led with 496. Adding to that are his 963 laps led in the Nationwide Series and 285 laps led in the Camping World Truck Series.
Even though he already has eight overall wins – three in Sprint Cup, three in the Nationwide Series, and two in the Camping World Truck Series – there also have been plenty of strong runs that were thwarted by various issues. Most recently, Busch led three times for a race-high 98 laps in Saturday Night’s Nationwide Series race and five times for a race-high 173 laps in Monday’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C. But Mother Nature kept Busch from a chance to get back in the lead in both rain-shortened events.
So as the Sprint Cup Series heads to “The Monster Mile” for the first of two races this season, the chances seem good that Busch will be doing the “Monster Mash” again Sunday on the Delmarva Peninsula. But, he’ll also hope to translate that dominance into an all-important victory.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You dominated again at Lowe’s Motor Speedway last weekend, but Mother Nature kept you from victory lane. What do you do to change that?
“As far as this weekend, there’s really nothing you can do about the weather. In the (Sprint) Cup race and the Nationwide race, we had cars capable of winning and we led a lot of laps. It’s been like that all year for us. We’ve had good cars and have run up front, led laps, but things have happened to us in the end that have kept us out of victory lane more than a few times. It’s not like we haven’t been running well, but we just hadn’t been finishing well. Sometimes, it ends up being something of our doing, like speeding on pit road. Then, you have things happen like last weekend that are really beyond our control. Not much you can do about that. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing – run up front, lead laps, and not make mistakes – and we can get those finishes to fall our way a little bit more.”
In that June race at Dover, we saw that it was really difficult to pass on this track with the current-generation car. Do you need to exercise a little more patience at Dover than you used to with the previous car?“Dover is a challenging racetrack no matter what car you are driving. But we found out last year that, once you get up into someone else’s wake – their buffer – the car doesn’t feel as secure. It doesn’t feel as comfortable without having the air going over it, the little amount of air that does go over it. So it’s kind of frustrating when you can’t gain on somebody. You couldn’t go to the top and try to pick up any time around the top because it’s just too long around up there and the cars are too tight. That’s when my guys helped gain me the track position and, ultimately, won me the race.”
You won the 2008 June race at Dover. Does that give you some added confidence going into this week, knowing it’s a place where you already ran well last year?
“For sure. We probably didn’t have the best race car there last year. But, we were really good there on long runs and had a big day from the guys on pit road. They really helped me with track position, since there were so many green-flag runs. They just kept us out front all day and that helped win it for us. Steve (Addington, crew chief) kept working on the car and we got better and better. We really didn’t start off the day with the car where we wanted it to be. It was just another example of why this team has gotten us to where we’re at this year, and we aren’t going to give up. I spent most of the day just riding and taking care of my stuff. I think I would have wrecked, otherwise. I rode around the bottom most of the day and tried not to move around too much. The second race there, we really didn’t get a chance to see what we had.”
Do you need a different mindset racing the current Sprint Cup car as opposed to a Truck or a Nationwide Series car, especially at Dover? Will you have to change mindsets since you’ll be driving all three series at Dover this weekend?
“I believe there’s a way you drive the Trucks and there’s a way you drive the Nationwide Series cars. That’s full-out, as fast as you can go. The harder you go, the faster you can go and it’s such a momentum game with those two. You have to pace yourself in the Cup cars a bit. You have to slow them down. You can drive them hard for the first three or four laps. Then, you have to start backing off, start slowing down, slowing up your entry, slowing down the center, just kind of moseying around the corner, trying to make the thing stick in one particular groove. I’ve found something that’s worked for me earlier this season. You know, we’re gaining on the car every week. But I think a lot of it is a little bit of driver. You’ve got to stay calm when you can. You’ve got to get going when the time’s right and not get too excited, before then, or you are prone to make a mistake.”