Aug 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway was the nadir of a horrendous month for Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
The Irwin Tools Night Race had Busch penalized early for speeding, collected in a multi-car crash, and engaged in a spat over the radio with crew chief Dave Rogers before finishing 36th – his fourth consecutive finish outside of the Top 35.
Busch may already be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of his win earlier this season at Fontana.
But out of the 12 drivers that have clinched post-season berths, he may be the one in most need of a good performance this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
He got a good start on the weekend yesterday when he qualified eighth for Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500.
“Our first [run] was by far our best of the three we made in qualifying,” he said. “We just were wrecking loose out of the turns and it made it hard to be aggressive.
“It’s still a good effort…And definitely better than where we were in practice today.”
Busch can take confidence from the fact that he won at Atlanta last season, aided by a superb late pit stop that allowed him to take the lead.
The bad news is that JGR’s former Midas touch on 1.5-mile ovals is no longer so, thanks in part to a lack of engine performance compared to those teams with Hendrick engines and the Roush Yates-powered Team Penske.
That part was something Busch had noted during the week.
“We’re not quite where we need to be with our mile-and-a-half stuff, but Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen,” he said in a release.
“You have to have good grip, you have to have good fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else – so you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early or save a little and be there late.”
Grip, pace, and patience are all important, but after last week’s frustrations, the last one will be most critical for Busch.
He sometimes seem to thrive on the controversy he generates (and you’ve shown in the comments section this week that he can generate a lot).
But with two races to go before the Chase and with his team in a tailspin, now’s not the time for that.
Now is the time for him to put up a big result and get the 18 camp back on solid footing before the championship stakes are raised.
Jan 30, 2015, 5:02 AM EST
After a disastrous 2014, Sauber aims to hit back this year with a new image and two new drivers.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
When he went looking for a new crew chief to replace the soon-to-be departing Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ultimately didn’t have to look very far.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne looks for success with new crew chief… and another Super Bowl for his Seahawks.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway was arrested last week and charged with indecent exposure and lewdness.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
Conor Daly finally set for an IndyCar test this offseason, with SPM.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
After coming so close last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015 — and he’s bringing his brass knuckles to give him a hand.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EST
Car owner Rick Hendrick said he consulted with Jeff Gordon about if to retire the No. 24 after this season.
Jan 29, 2015, 5:42 PM EST
One week after announcing he was retiring after the 2015 season, Jeff Gordon told NASCAR America that he wants to win his final Daytona 500 and also walk away with his fifth career Sprint Cup championship.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
IndyCar’s Brasilia, Brazil race set for March 8 has been canceled.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:35 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson will again embark on a quest for his seventh Cup title, but he acknowledged and embraced Thursday he’s not the story at Hendrick Motorsports for 2015.
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship
Jan 29, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
There’s nothing like putting a little pressure on a guy, especially in his final season. Team owner Rick Hendrick expects Jeff Gordon to win 14 races and the championship in 2015!
Jan 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Today’s NASCAR AMERICA runs for an hour and has a heavy No. 24 theme.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray’s start to 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:41 PM EST
Although he grew up a Jeff Gordon fan and was counseled by Gordon on his future, Kyle Larson will watch someone else drive the No. 24.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EST
Fresh off a team win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Kyle Larson not only is keeping time better, he says it’s also time to win some races and contend for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:52 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion is announced as Jeff Gordon’s successor a day before his father, Bill Elliott, is inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
British youngster will combine this role with a full season in GP2 with DAMS.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion will make his Sprint Cup debut in March before moving full time to NASCAR’s premier series in 2016.
Video from NASCAR America
- Sauber aims to beat the blues of 2014 with C34’s launch 0
- Track executive arrested, charged with lewdness with 19-year-old 0
- Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24 6
- Brasilia IndyCar race is canceled 3
- Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship 4
- Column: Chase Elliott’s promotion perfectly timed for NASCAR 11
- Chase Elliott will replace Jeff Gordon as No. 24 driver next season 5