Still the One
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 11, 2011) – Kyle Busch has 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins to his credit at 16 different venues.
Ironically enough, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota has yet to win at the racetrack he considers his absolute favorite – Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500.
Statistically speaking, Busch’s best Sprint Cup tracks are Bristol and Richmond as the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has compiled an impressive seven wins, 18 top-fives and 22 top-10 finishes in 28 starts at the two short tracks during his seven-year career. Add some memorable wins at difficult places like Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008, his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009, and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta this past July after winning the Inaugural Sprint Cup race there, and the talented 26-year-old can’t help but realize Charlotte is still the one venue where a Sprint Cup win has eluded him.
Busch came agonizingly close at Charlotte one year ago, when he led a race-high 217 laps but had to settle for a second-place finish behind Jamie McMurray.
Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star race during the month of May, dreaming that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds.
In his 15 previous Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte over the past seven-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the 1.5-mile oval nicknamed the “Beast of the Southeast.” He’s currently riding a streak of eight top-10 finishes during the last 10 points-paying races there, dating back to October 2006. In addition to solid Sprint Cup finishes, Busch has captured six NASCAR Nationwide Series wins, including four of the last seven (May 2004, 2005 and 2008, October 2008 and 2009, and May 2010) and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins (2005, 2006, 2010, and 2011).
Of course, while those eight Sprint Cup top-10s and 10 combined Nationwide and Truck Series wins at Charlotte are certainly something to be proud of for Busch, there’s still that childhood dream to fulfill. He currently sits eighth in the Sprint Cup standings, still very much in the championship battle only 20 points behind series leader Carl Edwards. With his first Sprint Cup title very much within reach, there would be no better time than the present for Busch to finally post that long-awaited maiden victory at his favorite track, which is located just down the road from his current home in Mooresville, N.C. Until he can finally check it off his wish list of venues where he has scored a Sprint Cup wins, however, it’ll continue to be known, quite simply, as “Still the One.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You’ve won at 16 different racetracks but you badly want to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, someday. Would you consider winning the October race at Charlotte to also be a feather in your cap?
“Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, since it is my favorite track, would be really special since I’ve been able to win there in other series and have been close a lot in the Cup car. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just hasn’t liked me too much. We got to win in the Truck Series race in the spring, so I’m hoping we can change that this weekend and get a fall Sprint Cup win. There are plenty of other tracks that we need to win at, too, but there’s no doubt it would be big.”
Do you enjoy the night race at Charlotte?
“Charlotte is always fun because it’s cool for us. It’s my favorite track, but it’s cool for a lot of teams because it’s kind of – quote-unquote –
close to home. I like going there. It makes things interesting with the night race. Practicing during the day and racing at night and the cooler temperatures and everything. You’ve got to put your best foot forward and work as hard as you can.”
What do you think about practicing during the day, qualifying at night, and then racing at night at Charlotte?
“Charlotte’s a tricky track because we practice during the day and then we race at night, so all the practice time you get, the track’s really hot, it’s really slick and, obviously, it’s pretty slow. A lot of stuff changes when you go into the nighttime – the way the track is, the way the loads are, the way the speed is. For us, it’s fun. I enjoy Charlotte. It’s a neat place for me to go race at.”
You’ve said in the past that Charlotte is your favorite track. Is there any particular reason why?
“Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons. Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Nationwide Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. But a Cup Series win has eluded me there. It’s been kind of a struggle there for me until recently, so we’re definitely getting closer than I was back when I first started racing at Charlotte. I think, before I came over to JGR, I had only finished three races there without having problems or without wrecking or having something happen. We’ve been good there but just haven’t been able to finally win there, so I hope my luck is turning around a bit.”
How important is it to be consistent, but also strong in the next several races?
“It’s just a matter of running as best you can, you know. When you run fifth to 10th all day at Chicago, you know you’re running well. You were competitive. You felt like you had a shot. You could have won the race had everything gone your way. But finishing 22nd, that hurt. That stung a little bit. We sort of felt the same way at Kansas last week. We probably had a fourth-place car, and just how the cautions fell at the end and the handling of our car was all over the place on two tires. That’s just a product of racing and what happens, and these races are 400, 500 miles in length for a reason. There’s a lot that can go down during that time. Certainly, we’ve not been as high as we want to be, yet, but that’s not indicative to how we’ve run, I don’t think.”
Have you ever been in a high-pressure situation where you felt like you didn’t perform to the best of your ability?
“Every week. There are 43 guys out here every week who, if they don’t win, they didn’t meet the potential that they wanted to. There have been times where we won races and we didn’t feel like we reached everything we needed to reach. It’s high pressure, it’s high stakes, there’s a lot on the line, and this is a big performance business and certainly you’ve got to make the most of it. We’re trying every week.”