About the only person who did not enjoy last year’s finish at Watkins Glen was Kyle Busch. He would be the driver who was bumped out of the way just after turn one on the last lap. That spin relegated Busch to a seventh place finish and left him a bit hot under the collar.
I’ve been bad in not placing Busch among the better road races in the Sprint Cup Series. For some reason it just doesn’t click for me. Looking at his results, I should know better than that. Taking his first Sprint Cup Series start at the scenic New York road course out of the equation (that was a 33rd place finish), he has not finished worse than ninth in the seven starts since his rookie year. This includes a 2008 victory and he’s led 159 laps. Of those 159 laps, 43 were racked up last year before Brad Keselowski’s bump and run.
Obviously Busch has found some formula for success at this track because it has not matter what team he was with nor his crew chief. The constant denominator has been Busch, who could be called the dominator at the 2.45 mile road course.
“It’s just time – getting better at road racing. For me, at the beginning I wasn’t excellent at it. I felt like I was OK, but I’ve gotten better at it over time. Just understanding the dynamic of the car a little bit more and what you can do with it, how much you can throw it into the corners and throw it around through the corners and all of that stuff. It just kind of takes time to figure all of that out. Watkins Glen is one of my better tracks and we haven’t finished it off the last couple years. I’m hoping this time we can lead laps like we have in the past and get another trophy there with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch when asked of his secret.
You can have all the driving talent, like Busch, but the race still comes down to pit strategy. That is something most teams will start working on almost immediately. They’ll formulate a plan where they can pit the least and still make it on fuel.
“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops I’m unsure of because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year,” commented Busch.
When it comes to the driving side of things at the track, Busch points to the esses that lead into the back stretch which goes right into the inner loop as being key to a fast lap.
“At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack. The most challenging thing is the culmination of the inner loop and the carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess,” explained Busch.
The action gets under way Friday with two practice sessions, with Saturday qualifying, and then Sunday is the Cheez-It 355 At The Glen. The race starts at 1 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN.