Kyle Busch Getting a ‘Grip’ at Michigan

Kyle Busch remembers the day well. It was Aug. 21, 2011, and with just four top-10 finishes in 13 previous starts in his career at Michigan International Speedway, he found himself outdueling now six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson for the win in a late-race shootout at the 2-mile oval.

But, during the offseason that followed, the heavily worn Michigan racing surface was repaved because of the toll harsh Upper Midwest winters wreaked, and that repave added a tremendous amount of grip that wears less on tires. In the six races since, Busch has four finishes outside the top-30, but also one top-five in June 2013.

During this weekend semiannual stopover in the Irish Hills for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Quicken Loans 400, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) looks to benefit from the same approach he used last season on the similarly repaved Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

Busch and former crew chief Dave Rogers felt they benefitted from a dramatically different approach at Kansas in 2014, one that yielded a third-place finish for his career best there. They started from a blank sheet of paper and raced strongly at times. Anyone who has ever followed Busch knows he has never been into moral victories. However, the team overcame its past issues and posted that third-place finish at Kansas and it felt pretty good.

As the M&M’s Crispy team struggled similarly on Michigan’s now-smooth asphalt surface the last two seasons, Busch and new crew chief Adam Stevens will look to approach this weekend much like the No. 18 team did last fall at Kansas. On newer surfaces, grip level is greatly increased, which makes the speeds faster than usual. But, the racing groove remains narrower than usual as the track continues to take Goodyear tire rubber more quickly. Eventually, the groove will widen and competitors will have more options for three- and four-wide racing. That could happen this weekend as another rough Michigan winter has had its way with the repaved surface. In the meantime, sound tire and fuel strategy will be the keys to making sure this trip to the Automobile State is a successful one.

So, as Busch and the M&M’s team head to the Upper Midwest this weekend, they hope to benefit from the same approach they used on other repaves to try to get a grip on the 2-mile oval in order to race for his second career Sprint Cup victory in the Irish Hills of Michigan.


Speedway Digest Staff

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