Making a 'Charge' at New Hampshire
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 11, 2017) – Two years ago this weekend, the track known as the “Magic Mile” certainly lived up to its billing for Kyle Busch and his Interstate Batteries team made quite the "charge" towards an important win.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), used hard work and a little bit of luck in July 2015 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to bring home what would be the second of three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins in a row during a summer hot streak that would ultimately springboard him to the 2015 Cup Series 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. It looked like their race was ruined by an unscheduled pit stop on lap 244 that 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 and brought home a second consecutive victory that he would add to the following week by winning the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he also won in 2016.
The 2015 New Hampshire victory was Busch’s second Cup Series win at the 1.058-mile oval, the first coming in just his third start there in July 2006 and 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 was winless there over the 17 races, which included a number of near-misses.
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 nine top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 24 starts at the track. Outside the Cup Series ranks, Busch has five wins, three poles and eight top-five results in 11 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.
With a strong record of seven top-fives and 10 top-10s thus far in 2017, the Interstate Batteries driver has come agonizingly close to bringing home his first Cup win of the season. In fact, Busch has led 858 laps this season, second most to Martin Truex Jr., and sits a solid third in the point standings as he aims for that first win of the season which would virtually lock him into a playoff spot.
So, as NASCAR’s top series heads to the Northeast for Sunday’s Overton’s 301, Busch will look to rekindle the magic he last enjoyed during this time of year there in 2015. There will be plenty of Interstate Batteries distributors and dealers across New England cheering him on as Interstate Batteries celebrates its 65th anniversary in 2017.
In the July race at New Hampshire two years ago, you had to pit 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. 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 and many who come down from Canada, too, 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.”
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.”
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’s 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’ve 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.”