Kyle Busch expects to mix it up Saturday at Charlotte
Each spring, zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina hosts a NHRA drag racing event called the “Four-Wide Nationals,” during which four cars barrel down the quarter-mile drag strip at the same time.
Just across the street sits the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval, which will likely see its share of four-wide racing in Saturday night’s $1 million-to-win non-points Sprint All-Star Race.
With that in mind, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor most likely to take it four-wide is none other than Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Whether the race counts in the standings or not, Busch is not afraid to drive it in deep and four-wide. Exhibit A was three races ago at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway when, with less than 10 laps to go, Busch on several occasions went four-wide, which is almost unheard of at the .75-mile short track, to vault himself from 16th place to a final finishing position of third.
Non-points races seem to be tailor-made for Kyle Busch, as well. Exhibit B: the first non-points race of this season – the race now called the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February 2012.
Busch wound up sideways in the draft not just once, but twice. Busch showed incredible car control on both occasions by saving his racecar as it got sideways and appeared to be headed for certain wrecks. Twice, he kept the M&M’s Camry off the wall and saved it from major damage. Busch followed those incredible saves by passing three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart coming to the finish line on the final lap to claim his first career victory in the non-points Shootout. Busch won by .013 of a second, the closest finish in event history.
Considering he intervened so adeptly when his racecar twice seemed destined for the back of a wrecker and took the checkers at Daytona instead, Busch will undoubtedly be one to watch again as the series heads into the second non-points event of the season Saturday night at Charlotte.
The Las Vegas native first left his non-points-race mark on the 2009 edition of the Sprint All-Star Race. NASCAR first instituted short-track-style, double-file restarts for just the All-Star Race that year. After Busch pulled off several bold moves that helped inject plenty of excitement into the race, it prompted NASCAR to go ahead and institute the double-file restart rule permanently for its top three series beginning at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just three weeks later.
Busch didn’t earn his spot in the All-Star Race on his ability to save a racecar, or for his four wide attempts alone. He locked in his spot for this year’s All-Star event – comprised primarily of 2013 and 2014 Sprint Cup race winners, plus past All-Star Race winners and past series champions – via his four series wins in 2013 and his one win in NASCAR’s top series thus far in 2014, which came in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
The Las Vegas native not only has earned the title of All-Star, he’s become one of the dominant forces in the elite Sprint Cup Series. His win at Fontana was the 29th of his Sprint Cup career, and Busch now has 131 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. With the aforementioned win at Fontana, Busch sits alone in 23rd place on the all-time Sprint Cup win list.
Busch was regarded as a potential star when he entered the Sprint Cup ranks full-time in 2005 as a raw 18-year-old, but he’s quickly transformed that star potential into bonafide All-Star status since joining JGR at the beginning of 2008.
As a competitor who has tried to focus on racing smart during points-paying events week in and week out, Busch views Saturday’s non-points-paying All-Star Race as his annual opportunity to throw patience out the window at his own discretion. So if there is four-wide racing Saturday night at Charlotte, chances are the colorful M&M’s Toyota will be right in the middle of the action.
Does Busch feel able to race other drivers differently this weekend? “Yes and no. That guy is still going to be mad at you or you’re still going to be mad at that guy. It doesn’t really matter what happens or what the scenario is. It is a race and you do want to win it. For this event, at least, it doesn’t have as much ramifications on it, but you still want to have the opportunity to make it to the final segment, of course, and to be able to run hard and go after that million bucks.”