Busch still feeling sting of New Hampshire debacle
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Excuse Kyle Busch if he’s a little cranky these days.
A disastrous opening race in the Chase for the championship eliminated his cushy lead in the standings, and Busch is rather irritated about his current position. He finished 34th last week in New Hampshire, dropping him from first in the standings to eighth.
“I am highly frustrated,” Busch admitted. “Everything in the regular season is now a waste. All that work we put in to win races and have an advantage in the Chase is just gone and now we’ve got to play catch up.”
Busch’s day went awry early Sunday, when a bolt became loose on his sway bar moments after the race began. It caused the suspension to fail on Busch’s Toyota and it was all he could do to keep his car off the wall as he tried to nurse it to the mandatory lap 35 caution.
“It was harder running the top groove and trying to stay out of everyone’s way,” he said of the trying 35 laps. “The bottom groove was slow, but easy to drive. So it was a little hard to figure out where I needed to be and how to stay out of everyone’s way. Once I figured it out, it wasn’t too bad.”
But the time it took to repair the broken part, plus a pit-road penalty, dropped Busch two laps off the pace and guaranteed him a terrible finish. A later wreck compounded the problem, and Busch was stuck running at the back of the field all day.
Riding around counting laps is not an easy task for the aggressive 23-year-old, who has won a series-high eight Cup races this season and has grown accustomed to setting the pace.
“It’s awful. You pretty much know that you are going to have to count on attrition, hope some other guys fall out, to gain as many points as you can,” Busch said. “So you are driving around, pretty much taking your lumps. … So you are stuck out there all day just riding it out, knowing for the rest of the Chase you have to play catch-up.”
The first step toward getting over the disappointment is getting back in a race car, which Busch did Tuesday during a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta. It was there that his Joe Gibbs Racing crew showed him what happened with the sway bar, and the group began to move past New Hampshire.
“The mood was fine. Everybody was there working and doing their jobs,” he said. “They showed me what happened and told me they were working on the things that happened so that it won’t happen again.”
Now the focus turns to Sunday’s race in Dover, Del., where Busch won the Cup race in June. He expects his mood will be sour all weekend, possibly even past the checkered flag.
“I know I need to have the mind-set to forget about it and try to concentrate on the task at hand, and we’re going to a place where we won last time,” he said. “But we were so much further ahead over most of the competition, and we had a great shot at getting way ahead, and now it’s gone.
“The pain will be easily erased with success, but I’ve got to find that success first.”
Busch’s Q&A with AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer:
Q: How frustrated were you after the race?
KB: I was highly frustrated and highly angry. It’s hard for me to not think that everything in the regular season is now a waste.
Q: Is that why you didn’t talk to the media after the race?
KB: I didn’t talk because everyone knew what happened, everyone heard it on the radio and everyone probably had a better idea of what happened then I did at that point. And I didn’t want to have to stand there and listen to stupid questions about ‘Does this ruin your chances for the championship.’ There was no point in me standing there in the mood I was in.
Q: How do you know what the questions would be?
KB: Because it’s the same old stuff. Everybody is discounting us for the championship now, and we have to go out there and prove everyone wrong.
Q: Jimmie Johnson and Rick Hendrick both said you were in no way out of the championship after one bad race.
KB: The media does.
Q: Are you?
KB: No, I don’t think we’re out of it. Not by any means.
Q: Does it help that people like Rick and Jimmie said after the race that you’ll be back?
KB: Not really. It’s pretty much well known that I don’t give up, and I am going to keep driving the wheels off of that thing.
Q: How long is it going to take you to get over New Hampshire?
KB: It will probably take a couple weekends. I’m going to need to get back on the track and get some results, and that’s going to take some time.
Q: Is there anything Joe Gibbs or anyone else can say that makes it any easier for you?
KB: No. Nothing.
Q: This mood you are in, if you can’t shake it and take it with you into Dover, is there any chance it can snowball and sink the entire Chase?
KB: It can. You can try to forget about it, but it’s still there and it still hurts. All I can do now is go run well at Dover, but I’m still that far behind and I know I shouldn’t have been. Kansas, if we can run well, maybe we can get back toward the front, at least back to where we’re back in it. It’s just so hard because I should have had at least a 30-point advantage through the whole Chase. Now we are 74 points behind, we shouldn’t be in that position, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”