NASCAR’s Kyle Busch may finally have unlocked the solution to his career-long drought at Kansas Speedway.
Busch, who has but two Top 10 finishes in 12 career starts at Kansas, was one of four Sprint Cup drivers to take part in a Goodyear tire test last July on the recently repaved and reconfigured track.
The rest of the field will get a chance to test the track on Thursday in advance of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, but Busch, who enters the race third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, hopes the new tire and extra time on the track will be to his advantage.
“We felt like the lack of success we’ve had the last couple times since the repave … it was really, really hard for me to get a feel for the tire and the race track,” Busch said. “We could run fast laps, post quick times in practice and qualifying, but in the race, when you get in traffic, everything starts changing … it would throw us for a little bit of a curve.
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“This time around, getting the tire test done, getting some information with the car, getting me more suited to the race track with a different tire combination, we felt like it was a positive for us.”
Busch, 28, has won at 17 of the 23 active Sprint Cup tracks, but Kansas is one of six he has failed to reach victory lane. He qualified fifth last spring, but an accident sent him to a 38th-place finish. And last fall, in the first race on the new track, he qualified fourth, but another wreck left him in 31st place.
His best finish at Kansas Speedway in a Sprint Cup car is seventh, way back in 2006.
Little wonder Busch called Kansas his “second-biggest test in the Chase” only to the restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race,” Busch said of his difficulties at Kansas. “It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you get it figured out, 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.”
This year, Busch will have the benefit of having Matt Kenseth as a teammate. Kenseth has won the two races held on the repaved track, last fall in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing and last April in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
“With Matt and myself in contention it's obviously worked really, really well for us,” Busch said. “The things we've been doing all year long, we've been sharing some great information. We both have similar feedback. We both share similar feelings in the racecar of how we're feeling, how to get the most out of our equipment.
“We have to continue to do just that … it’s going to be a lot better to have us two being able to bounce ideas off of all the way down into the Chase and to race against the other cars.”
Busch, who missed the Chase last year, is off to the best start in his six Chase appearances, with finishes of second, second and fifth. Despite that consistency, he’s fallen from second to third in the standings, 12 points behind Kenseth, who won the first two races in the Chase, and four behind Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Dover.
It would seem that cooperation between Busch and Kenseth would cease if they are the last two standing heading into the final two races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead. But that’s not necessarily so, said Busch.
“I think you share an open notebook all the way to Homestead,” Busch said. “That's the way we've always worked at Joe Gibbs Racing for years. It can certainly make for some difficult moments or some team meetings that maybe you don't share everything. But I think in essence, the ethical thing to do is to be complete open book. May the best man and crew chief win.
“I don't foresee much of that changing. We come down into Homestead, hopefully it is the two of us battling it out. All that does is guarantees Joe Gibbs a championship, and Joe gets to sit up on the stage, and that will be pretty cool.”