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Kyle Busch Needs A Reversal Of Kansas Fortunes

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 2 2013

Kyle Busch calls Kansas a major test in his bid to win his first Cup championship. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Kyle Busch’s numbers through the first 25 Sprint Cup races this year look remarkably similar to his numbers through the first 25 races of the 2011 season. And pretty impressive those two sets of numbers are.

The thing is, Cup seasons are 36 races long.

It was the numbers that came in the final four races – Chase playoff races all – which took Busch down in 2011 and which were on the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s mind Tuesday during a media teleconference.

“We started out the (Chase) OK,” Busch said of 2011. “Wasn’t great. We got through Charlotte and we were third in points, I believe. We still had a shot. We felt like we were in contention. We had five more races to go. We had an opportunity to win the championship in 2011.”

In those final four races, things went not OK.

Busch finished 33rd at Talladega  and dropped from fourth to sixth in Chase standings.

He then finished 27th in Martinsville and dropped from sixth to seventh in the Chase.

He then finished 36th at Phoenix and dropped to 12 in the standings.

He then finished 23rd at Homestead-Miami and, well, there was no place left to fall.

Remember all that?

Busch did on Tuesday. In detail.

Kyle Busch has not been at his best at the Kansas oval. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

“We went to Talladega and we got crashed,” he said. “Then we went to Martinsville and we got crashed late in the going after running 1-2 with my teammate all race long. That was sort of our year. The championship was essentially out of reach, it was over with.”

But 2013 is not 2011, Busch said.

“The (2011) year was certainly frustrating, but this is a new time for us,” Busch, who is still looking for his first Cup championship, said. “2013 can hopefully be our season where we continue to knock off some of these good finishes, and our second biggest test, like I said, comes this weekend.”

This weekend is the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. The reason he lists racing there as a big test is clear when going to the stat sheets.

Busch has been less than phenomenal at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval. In 12 Cup starts, his best finish is seventh, but his average finish is 22nd. The last two races – which were  run on the track after it was repaved and reconfigured to a variable banking layout – have seen him DNF.

He has just one top-10 at Kansas since his seventh-place finish in 2006. Thanks for asking.

“We go to one of our worst racetracks on the circuit,” Busch, who is third in points heading to Kansas – 12 behind leader Matt Kenseth and four behind second-place Jimmie Johnson – said.

“Probably going to be our second biggest test, we feel like, in the Chase,” he repeated.

Busch and his team will have something potentially more tangible than history going in its favor this weekend. They were part of a tire test at Kansas earlier in the summer.

At the test, Goodyear shod the cars with its “multi-zone tire”.

According to Goodyear, “The multi-zone tread tire concept, which debuted at Atlanta last month, combines two distinct tread compounds on the same tire. This right-side features the same compound that Sprint Cup teams ran at Kansas earlier this season across the outside nine inches of the tread (traction zone) with a more heat resistant compound on the inside three inches (endurance zone). Goodyear’s new left-side tire for Kansas is a more traditional single-compound tire.”

When asked if participating in the test would give him, his team and their Toyota Camry an edge, Busch said, “We certainly think so. It was a great time to be able to come out there and get a tire test in.

“We felt like with the unsuccess we’ve had the last couple times being there since the repave, the tire combination we had, it was just really, really hard for me to get a feel for the tire and the racetrack that I was looking for.

“We could run fast laps, post quick times in practice and qualifying. Just in the race when you get in traffic, everything starts changing, the rubber starts going down, it would throw us for a little bit of a curve.

“This time around, getting the tire test done, getting some information with the car, getting me more suited to the racetrack with a different tire combination, we felt like it was a positive for us. Certainly we hope those results will be indicative of how we run this weekend and we can have a better go of it.”

And a chance to reverse the ill fortunes of  the Chase 2011 and his last bunch of races at Kansas.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 2 2013
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