Busch Looks for Better in Kansas
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 7, 2014 | 10:08 A.M. EST
"It’s important to learn some things this weekend since Kansas is a Chase race and, hopefully, we can just bring home a decent finish and learn what we need to do in the fall when a good finish will be even more important." (Photo: Getty Images)
Busch saw his chance at running for the Sprint Cup championship take a hard hit in last October’s Hollywood casino 400. He came into the weekend third in the Sprint Cup Series point standings but fell to fifth after he was involved in three of the day’s record 15 caution flags.
Oh and Busch started the weekend by crashing in practice and was forced to a back-up car.
"All I know is we're in Kansas - right?," Busch asked sarcastically. "It's just Kansas. That's all we do here. We just crash."
When all was said and done, Busch was 34th in the final standings and dropped from 12 to 25 point behind in the title race.
Now Busch returns to the track that has the distinction of being his worst track on the Sprint Cup schedule based on an average finish of 23.3. But in order to turn things around, Busch says things have to improve psychologically.
“I think the mindset has to be completely different,” said Busch. “Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and I have worked together to start over, from how we set up the car to how I approach it.”
One thing in Busch’s favor is the new Chase format. With a win already to his credit and a probable spot in the playoffs, there is at least a little less pressure on the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team in Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400.
“We are fortunate that we are able to do that because we do already have a win and are also sitting well in the standings,” said Busch. “I don’t exactly know what is going to get us going in the right direction there, but what we have done in the past hasn’t worked, obviously.”
Another thing in Busch’s favor is the fact that while he hasn’t performed well, he still enjoys racing at the 1.5-mile speedway.
“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that,” Busch explained. “It’s just a 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.”
Last year the JGR organization was a powerhouse on 1.5-mile tracks like Kansas with Busch and teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin enjoying success at speedways like Kansas. However it’s been a different story so far in 2014.
While Busch won at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway and Hamlin was victorious last week at Talladega, JGR has had trouble finding the sweet spot in its 1.5-mile program.
While some have speculated NASCAR’s new 1.5-mile rule package has caused the struggles, Busch points to another reason.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the aero rules,” he said. “I think it’s just to do with the new ride-height rules. The box used to be so big, and now it’s way bigger. It just allows more opportunity for teams to experiment and to come up with different things that make their cars go fast.
“I don’t discount the time and effort and everything that my guys put in at the race shop, and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and all the work that they do, but there are teams out there right now that have worked a little smarter than us and figured it out a little earlier than us. But, if now is the time to struggle a little bit, certainly earlier in the season is an OK time to do that. You do need to pick business up by at least week 10 or so and get yourself rolling. I’m confident in all of our guys that we can do that. We have a lot of smart people who will get us where we need to be, for sure.”
Busch of course is hoping to be in Victory Lane after the checkered flag flies on Saturday night. A second win would be nice but Busch also thinks there’s even more to be gained this weekend that will pay dividends down the road.
“It’s important to learn some things this weekend since Kansas is a Chase race and, hopefully, we can just bring home a decent finish and learn what we need to do in the fall when a good finish will be even more important,” said Busch.