Darlington: Kyle Busch preview

Records Are Made to Be Broken HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2009) -- While NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch is way too young to have witnessed some of the great races and legends who competed at historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, it ...

Records Are Made to Be Broken

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2009) -- While NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch is way too young to have witnessed some of the great races and legends who competed at historic Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, it doesn't mean the newly minted 24-year-old doesn't have a deep appreciation for the facility that turns 60 years old in 2009.

The driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) wasn't even been born until 1984, but he's well aware of the history of the sport he competes in each and every week, even if his only option to watch to those great races and drivers comes via YouTube.

Case in point: the November 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. By winning that day, Busch scored his 10th Nationwide Series victory of the season, tying him with the legendary Sam Ard for the most victories in a Nationwide Series season. In victory lane, Busch announced a donation of $100,000 to the 69-year-old Ard, who suffers from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and whose family had fallen on hard financial times.

As another week goes by for Busch, the significance of his growing list of accomplishments is certainly not lost on him. By winning the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway last weekend, the Las Vegas native became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough -- twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983.

Busch's 15th career Sprint Cup win also tied him with four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon for the most wins before the age of 25. By also sweeping the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Richmond last weekend, Busch now has 50 career wins in NASCAR's top three divisions -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. That mark tied for 11th all-time with Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, and Greg Biffle.

The weekend sweep at Richmond marked the second time Busch has done so in his career. His first Nationwide/Sprint Cup sweep came last July at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. And, lest we forget, Busch also became the only driver to win two races in NASCAR's top three series in one day, when he swept both the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series events at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., this past February.

While Darlington's traditional race name, the Southern 500, makes its return this weekend, the M&M's team also returns as the defending race winner at the track considered "Too Tough to Tame." And as he hits town this weekend, Busch already brings with him the distinction of being the youngest Sprint Cup winner in the storied history of the 1.33-mile egg shaped oval.

So if Busch is fortunate enough to keep his winning streak going this weekend at Darlington, he's guaranteed to add to the record books, yet again. After all, records are made to be broken.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

What did it feel like to win at Darlington and become the youngest winner there at a track that has so much history?

"It meant a lot. That racetrack has so much history to it. I don't claim to know all the history and heritage of it, but I know there's a lot to it. I know watching old videos of (David) Pearson or Cale (Yarborough) there, then watching some of the highlights of the races there, too. You think of things like Jeff's (Gordon) million, (Bill) Elliott's million. Then you've got races from before that time, when they were still running around there with guardrail walls. It's kind of fun to watch those and see what the track was like back in the heyday. But we're running around there so fast now, and the start-finish line is on the opposite side. And with the new pavement, it's fast, too. To me, it's just neat to be able to become a winner there."

Last year's race was memorable, since you probably hit the wall no less than three or four times. How were you still able to bring home a win there?

"I tried a bunch of times to knock down the fence. I think I got a 'Darlington Stripe' on about every corner last year. Fortunately for me, I just didn't hit hard enough to where I was able to come through there and still win. You look at racers from the past -- I mean, Jeff Gordon's car was killed on the side when he won his million. So was Jeff Burton's, when he won there in the rain. There is a lot of heritage and history to that place and it's an honor to race there because of that, and how unique this place is and how many great drivers have won there. I probably pay attention to the history of the sport more than people see. But trust me, I appreciate those guys who have raced there and won there because I know how difficult it is now, and I'm sure it was back then."

Darlington's pavement is still fairly new, as it only has last year's Sprint Cup race on it. How much has that changed the racetrack from the old Darlington?

"The track is much faster and has a lot more grip than in the past, so the tire wear is entirely different. But, it's still a unique racetrack and challenging, whether it's new or old pavement and what tires we bring. I like Darlington as a racetrack. I think it's a little easier for me to drive now with the fresh pavement than the on the old pavement. For whatever reason, I wasn't that great at the old stuff. But I finished second in the Nationwide Series once. This time, going around there is going to be the second year on the new asphalt. So it should still be pretty grippy. And I'm looking forward to it. I think Denny (Hamlin, teammate) had the tire test out there, so we'll talk to him and get some of his feedback on what he learned."

STEVE ADDINGTON, Crew Chief, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry at Darlington Raceway and native of Spartanburg, S.C.

As a South Carolinian, what did it mean to win at Darlington last year?

"It was big. Any time you win in your home state it's special. It was like winning in Vegas for Kyle (Busch). It's been a place I always wanted to win. When I was a crew chief in the Nationwide Series, we would finish behind the Roush cars too many times. To finally get that win last year in the Cup Series was really exciting. It's just a neat deal to win a race so close to home."

What do you remember watching and participating in races at Darlington over the years that makes it so special, aside from it being in your home state?

"What I always used to like about Darlington that makes it exciting is that it used to be a rough racetrack and your tires would wear out. You would really have to have a good-handling car and tire management. And good drivers always rose to the top as the race came down to the end. I used to like to watch David Pearson and those guys who would run well, and knew how to manage their tires, and race the racetrack. Great drivers rise to the top there, and we know we've got one behind the wheel of our M&M's Toyota with Kyle."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Greg Biffle , Ned Jarrett , Junior Johnson , Kyle Busch , David Pearson
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing