Wait ’Til Bristol Sees Us! It Loves Us!
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 24, 2011) – In the classic 1978 movie Animal House, while on a road trip with his Delta Tau Chi fraternity brothers, Donald “Boon” Schoenstein notices that the band Otis Day and the Knights are playing that evening at the Dexter Lake Club.
As the group enters the establishment, “Boon” enthusiastically yells out, “Wait ’til Otis sees us! He loves us!”
As Kyle Busch, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the rest of the Z-Line Designs team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) head to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway this weekend for their 25th “road trip” of the season, they very well could be as excited as “Boon” by yelling out, “Wait ’til Bristol sees us! It loves us!”
Busch has been far and away the most successful driver at the .533-mile high-banked concrete oval over the past few years. He’s won five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, including the last two and four of the last five. The Las Vegas native has won three NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Bristol, including the last two, and he’s also taken the checkered flag in the last three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Bristol.
Altogether, Busch has 11 wins at Bristol in NASCAR’s top three divisions, so it’s a good bet he’ll be the favorite heading into Friday night’s Food City 250 Nationwide Series race at the famous track in northeast Tennessee.
The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for JGR has led 788 laps in 14 Nationwide starts, which means he leads an average of 56 laps each time he takes to the half-mile oval. Last August, he led 116 of 250 laps en route to taking the checkered flag and, this past spring, he dominated a 300-lap race by leading 268 circuits.
And while Busch goes for his fourth Nationwide win and 12th overall at Bristol, he’ll also look to make a little history. By winning the July 16 New England 200 Nationwide race at New Hampshire, the driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry scored his record-tying 49th career victory in the series. This Friday, Busch will look to break the tie with the legendary Mark Martin atop the series career victory list and score his 50th Nationwide win.
Should he accomplish his record-breaking milestone, the celebration in victory lane should be memorable. Perhaps not as memorable as the toga party the Deltas threw in Animal House, but memorable, still.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
You won at Bristol before it was resurfaced in 2007 and you’ve won a lot more races since then. Does the newer surface favor you a little more than the old one?
“I would say so, a little bit. The old racetrack was a little more single-file, bump-and-gouge a little bit. I was running second in a Nationwide race one time, coming off of turn two. There was a lapped car that got loose. We all kind of checked up a little bit and someone spun me out. It’s a product of being single-file and not really having anywhere else to race besides one groove. Now, you’ve got more room to race, you can give room to race each other a little bit. It’s just kind of a by-product of the racing surface.”
The high line seems to work for you at Bristol. Why is that?
“It’s just momentum. You’re not having to hold the car so tight on the bottom of the racetrack, slow it down, get it to turn. Take an off-ramp or on-ramp from a freeway to a freeway, one that circles around and goes back the other way, run on the inside real tight and see how much wheel you have to put in it, and then run on the outside and see how much less wheel you have to put in it. You can carry more momentum and speed up there. When you get launched down a straightaway, I don’t know what the degree of banking there is – 28, 30 degrees – you’re running down that banking, it’s momentum, instead of coming out of a hole uphill, spinning your tires. That’s basically what the differences are in the two lines, why the outside is better on restarts.”
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
What makes Kyle Busch so good at Bristol?
“I wish I knew. I could sell it. I wish I could bottle it and sell it. I don’t know. He’s got something figured out that works there. And obviously it’s not just in a Cup car or not just in a Nationwide car. It’s in all three series. He’s just got a knack for that racetrack. It’s been good to him. A lot of guys can get around the track and go fast, but the amount of focus it takes to get from the green flag to the checkered flag at that pace for that many laps, working through traffic, keeping your nose clean, that’s probably the most impressive part. That’s ultimately what probably makes him so good there is that he can focus from start to finish and go fast for however many laps it takes to keep himself out of trouble. He just processes really fast and I think that’s why that place is so good to him, because that’s what it takes. You can really get jumbled up there and forget what turn you’re in and forget which end of pit road you need to enter under green. Crazy things happen fast. The ability to process things really quickly is something that he has and I think that’s one of the reasons he does so well there.”
The two Nationwide Series races at Bristol are completely different. In the spring, the race is 300 laps and run in the afternoon, while the fall race is 250 laps and conducted at night. How are the races different for you as a crew chief?
“Bristol forever was a two-stop race and it was almost like a road course in that you wanted to be the first guy to pit last. But you didn’t want to go too far, where you ran out of tires at the end. But you wanted to make sure you had the track position at the end of it. That was because it was so difficult to pass. When they added that extra 50 laps to the spring race, it kind of put you in a window where you said, ‘Well, I don’t want to get too many laps on our tires.’ For the fall race, with it being shorter, it kind of lends itself to the way we’ve always run Nationwide races at Bristol. We’re probably not going to pit too many times. You’ll want to keep track position and you won’t need the fuel. So, it’s going to happen fast. You’re going to need to maintain your track position and you’re not going to get many opportunities to work on your car. It is different. You wouldn’t think 50 laps would be that different, but it really is and it changes your strategy quite a bit. You get one less swing at it and you better get it right.”
Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry: Chassis No. 18-109: This car’s debut came in February at Phoenix International Raceway, where Busch started from the pole and led all 200 laps en route to victory in the Bashas’ Supermarket 200. Busch then drove the car in March at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where he started fifth and led 268 of 300 laps on his way to victory. The last time chassis 18-109 raced was in July at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in Clermont, Ind., where Michael McDowell started ninth and finished 10th.