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Busch Out To Turn Kansas Frown Upside Down

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 4 2014

Kyle Busch called Kansas Speedway the worst in NASCAR a year ago. He needs a good showing there on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kyle Busch’s anger after crashing out of the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway a year ago was understandable. The wreck ended hopes of capping an impressive four-victory, eight-podium finish season with his first series championship.

And it was understandable that he blamed not bad luck but a bad track – he called it the worst track on the schedule after exiting the infield care center – for his DNF as Busch had crashed out of his two previous races here, three overall in 12 career starts and had an average finishing position of 18th at that point.

But surely, time and a decent finish in the spring race this year have taken the edge off Busch’s hatred for Kansas Speedway.

Nope.

Not even qualifying seventh fastest for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 could mellow Busch’s dislike of the place.

After getting out of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota following qualifying on Friday, Busch let fly with this little wisp of vitriol about the track, which was repaved and reconfigured a couple years ago: “It’s really, really fast. There’s a lot of grip, but you’re on such an edge that when you lose the grip it’s going to be a big mess. That’s just what Kansas is, that’s what repaves are and it’s frustrating in that respect.”

With points reset after last week’s race at Dover, Busch is tied with 11 other drivers for the lead in the 12-driver, three-race Contender Round that begins this weekend.

He’s got a victory on the season and has more top-10 finishes – 18 – than any other driver still in contention for a championship.

But it’s a couple things he doesn’t have that are adding to his dour disposition this weekend.

The first is he’s at Kansas.

“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that,” Busch said. “It’s just a

Kyle Busch was involved in a wreck in practice at Kansas a year ago. He crashed in the race the next day. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

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.”

Then there is the fact that JGR Toyotas are just not as fast as the cars fielded by fellow Chasers from Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Busch’s teammates and fellow Chasers, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, qualified 25th and 27th respectively.

What up?

Busch said racing on the variably banked Kansas intermediate was OK as long as your car has speed and grip: And the JGR cars have neither.

“We’ve just been off as a group,” Kenseth said after qualifying. “All three of us haven’t been real speedy today. Unfortunately, I was the slowest of the three.

“The track conditions are ideal, it’s a beautiful day here in Kansas. The track has grip, they have a fairly hard tire for that, but as you can see the speeds are extremely fast and we’re trying to get more grip than anyone else.”

A few minutes later, Hamlin said, “I didn’t see anything Matt (Kenseth) said, I’m guessing he was before me (in talking to the media) and said the same thing I’m going to say. Our cars just don’t have any speed. Balance

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth need some speed. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

is fine, just three-tenths, four-tenths odd consistently — all of our cars are. It’s just disappointing we can’t have any more speed out of our cars. We’ll try as hard as we can to move up. We’re going to have to come from the tail end of the pack, but it’s a track position race so maybe we’ll play the strategy right and sneak a good finish out of here.”

For Busch, there are slivers of hope about doing well on his least favorite NASCAR track.

He’s won a Nationwide race and a Camping World race at Kansas. He has seven top-eight finishes in nine NNS starts here.

And then there was the spring race earlier this year – he finished 15th after qualifying 24th.

“Our mindset in the spring there was completely different,” Busch said, “and we saw an improvement there. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and I worked together to start over, from how we set up the car to how I approached it. We didn’t get the finish we wanted, but we ended up 15th, I think, with a clean racecar. We had a pit-road speeding penalty that really hurt us with track position, so you try not to make another mistake like that and hope you can hang in there and have some things go your way at the end.

“There are many places we’ve been in my career that I’ve struggled at, but we’ve gone back to the drawing board and, thanks to 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. So we’re hoping we can build on what we learned there in the spring and improve our finish and run a smart race and see where it puts us.”

Hopefully for Busch, it won’t put him where it did a year ago; out of championship contention.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 4 2014
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