Kyle Busch has never had a problem following in his older brother's footsteps. Kyle, who is nearly seven years younger than his brother, defending Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, is quickly making a name for himself as the top rookie on...
Kyle Busch has never had a problem following in his older brother's footsteps.
Kyle, who is nearly seven years younger than his brother, defending Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, is quickly making a name for himself as the top rookie on the circuit this year.
Busch pilots Hendrick Motorsports' #5 entry and after a strong effort at Michigan last week that was spoiled by a hot dog wrapper, he is looking to become the first driver since his older brother to claim his first Nextel Cup win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kyle was the second fastest driver in final practice today for Saturday's Sharpie 500 (7:00 p.m. Eastern on TNT).
"I love racing at Bristol, but it'll definitely be a tough weekend," said Busch, who led 28 laps last weekend at MIS, but was forced out of the race when his motor overheated. The culprit was a hot dog wrapper that blocked the opening on the grill and sent the engine temperature soaring. "Everyone beats and bangs on each other - it's like a demolition derby in a cereal bowl."
Busch has eight wins in the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series over the past four years, including short track wins at Richmond and Indianapolis Raceway Park. He hopes that translates to a quality finish on Saturday. Busch is pulling triple duty this week in Bristol. He finished fifth in the Craftsman Truck race on Wednesday and is on the pole for tonight's Busch Series race.
"(The Truck race) was fun and I think it will help me here in the Busch race and then the Cup race," said Busch, who finished 28th in his Cup Series debut at Bristol in April. "This is a tough track so the more laps I have to learn something about it is a plus. The guys did an awesome job at the shop preparing these things. I'm looking forward to it."
Busch picked up a second-place finish in the third race of the season at his hometown track in Las Vegas. He also picked up top-5 finishes at Richmond, Dover, Pocono and New Hampshire. He led 90 laps at Dover in June and feels like his team is working its way to Victory Lane.
"We want to win races, of course, but we know that takes a little bit of time, and we'll get there sooner or later," said Busch, who made six Nextel Cup starts in 2004 to prepare for his run at the Rookie of the Year title. "I'm ecstatic at how everything came about for myself and being able to run the races I did. Being (with) Hendrick Motorsports and the support they have and the NEXTEL Cup Series - it's just one of those dreams that came through."
Busch has been partnered with crew chief Alan Gustafson, who started working the Hendrick chassis shop five years ago. He was an engineer for the #5 team when Terry Labonte brought the car to Victory Lane in the Southern 500 in 2003.
"It's been a great experience to be able to work with him," said Busch, who finished second to Martin Truex Jr. in the Busch Series championship standings last year. "We worked well from the beginning part of the year. We found a couple things and nips and tricks that work for us - we just need to find a bit of an edge that will get us up that much further on the competition."
In addition to his older brother, Busch is fortunate to benefit from the experience of a garage full of teammates, including four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson - who has finished second in the standings each of the past two years - and former Busch Series champion Brian Vickers.
"It's nice to be able to have all of those guys, all of their experience in order to work from and in order to work with for my rookie year," said Busch, who will easily win the rookie of the year title this year. "It's made it easier on me than it would most rookies probably because we could go to them and kind of get some ideas as far as setup and things like that."
Busch also relies on the experience of team owner Rick Hendrick and team manager Brian Whitesell, who is credited with the successful merger of the #24 and #48 teams into one shop.
"I think the leadership skills from Mr. Hendrick and of course Brian Whitesell, too, has really brought together the 5 (and) 25 teams," said Busch, who made six Craftsman Truck Series starts for Roush Racing as a high school junior in 2001. "Brian Whitesell puts all the people in the right places, and I think that's what the biggest deal is, why we've been so successful this year."
Busch is comfortable following in his brother's footsteps, but unlike Kurt, who announced that he was leaving Roush Racing to join Penske Racing South in 2007, Kyle doesn't expect to go anywhere anytime soon.
"I'm ecstatic that I'm able to be at Hendrick Motorsports. Rick and I have been discussing a lot of things here lately and one of those is how long exactly I want to be here," said Busch, who signed with Hendrick for a pair of ARCA starts in 2003. "I'm not anywhere near leaving. I'm stuck here probably until I retire. I wouldn't imagine racing for anybody else but Rick. He's just one of the greatest guys that I've been able to work with and that I've heard from as well, too."