Kyle Busch: Texas Has a ‘Five-Time’ of its Very Own

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Ted Rossino

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 2, 2011) – After winning the last five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, Jimmie Johnson has carried around the nickname “Five-Time” this past season. Never a racetrack to let itself to be outdone by anyone, anytime, anywhere, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth can lay claim to a “Five-Time” of its very own – none other than Kyle Busch.

The 26-year-old driving phenom from Las Vegas made history at Texas when he won five consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races at the 1.5-mile oval from April 2008 through April 2010. He started on the pole twice during that incredible five-race stretch, led a whopping 810 of 1,000 possible laps, and joined Dale Earnhardt – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – and Jack Ingram – South Boston (Va.) Speedway – as the only drivers ever to win five straight races at the same track.

A runner-up finish to Carl Edwards last November ended Busch’s Texas win streak despite leading another race-high 107 laps, and an early exit this past April, when another competitor blew a tire and took him out of the race 12 laps before the halfway point, suddenly has the young driver looking at a two-race losing streak at the track.

No matter, as Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Conn’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will look to get back to his winning ways at Texas during Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. It will be Busch’s seventh consecutive race representing Jim and Monica Sexton’s California-based company – Z-Line Designs – and his first Nationwide event since his runner-up finish at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway three weeks ago. He’s had victories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway during that stretch to go with another runner-up finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a fourth-place run on the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

At stake this weekend, as the Nationwide Series is down to its final three events of 2011, is a third consecutive owner championship for crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the No. 18 Toyota team and the fourth straight Nationwide owner title for JGR overall. The No. 18 holds a slim seven-point lead over the No. 60 of Roush Fenway Racing and driver Edwards heading to Texas.

Given Busch and Ratcliff’s history together at Texas, it’s safe to say JGR’s own “Five-Time” is a good bet to get back to victory lane.

Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Conn’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

Why are you and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota team so good at Texas?

“It’s been a team effort – Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys – all those guys at Joe Gibbs Racing – the chassis guys, the body guys, the guys in the engine shop and everybody who makes this possible. It’s just good racecars and good people. They work so hard and bring such good cars to the racetrack. It seemed like we couldn’t do anything wrong at Texas in the Nationwide Series for a long time. Being able to win five in a row there was really quite an accomplishment. Hopefully, we can start another winning streak there this weekend.”

What did it mean to be one of three drivers to win five races in a row at one track in the Nationwide Series?

“It’s neat to be in the history books in those respects. To come to a racetrack like Texas and win that many times and be that dominant, especially after struggling there so badly in my early years with the (Sprint) Cup car, it made it that much more special. It’s been a lot of fun to run there the last couple years in the Nationwide Series and be as good and dominant as we’ve been. We hopefully at least a shot at it again this weekend. I’ve been out of the Nationwide car a lot the last couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to racing a lot this weekend and hope we can get our Z-Line Designs Camry to victory lane again at Texas.”

Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Conn’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

After winning five consecutive races at Texas, you’re on a two-race losing streak. What will it take to get back to victory lane?

“Our mile-and-a-half program has gotten better. I felt we were better at Charlotte. We had a good car at Texas the first race this year. We were battling for the lead but another car blew a tire and took us out. It’s a track we’ve had a lot of success at and it’s not like we’ve been bad the last couple of events, we just fell a little short. We’ll take what we learned at Charlotte, and hopefully end up on the winning side of things.”

There are three races left in the 2011 season. What will it take for the No. 18 team to win another owner championship?

“I’m excited about what’s going on and I feel like we have an opportunity to do it. I’m excited that we’re even in position to do it with Kyle running such a limited schedule and we’ve had some young guys in the car this year. We’ve had five different drivers in the car, so just to be in contention and be where we are, I’m really excited about that. We’ve won the last two races at Homestead and we typically run well at Phoenix. Even though it’s a different configuration, we’ll have Joey (Logano) in the car, there, and I think that’s a track he’ll do well. He tested the Cup car out there about a month ago and it seemed to be good. Kyle at Texas is always a winning combination and then Joey at Phoenix, I think we’ have a really good shot at it. After two weeks off, I think the guys are geared up and ready to close the deal.”

What do you remember about your nine years in Texas right after high school?

“I moved to Texas right out of high school and went to DeVry University (in Irving). It was my first time out on my own and I met my wife there and we were married there. It’s a neat place. I really liked it and the people in the area. Dallas/Fort Worth is just such a neat area and, if you can think of it, you can probably do it in that area. Everything is there. It’s a cool place and I’m not a big-city guy, but it’s an area where you can get the benefits of the big city without feeling like you’re in the big city. I have a lot of friends there, and my mom and dad lived there until just recently. When you live in an area that long, it feels like home. That’s one of the few tracks we go to that, when we show up there, I don’t need a map. I can tell you where to go and where to go eat. So, it’s always nice to go back there and spend some time.”

Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Conn’s Toyota Camry

Chassis No. 18-130: This car’s debut came in June at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn where Busch started 12th and finished third. It’s next on-track appearance came in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta where Busch completed one qualifying lap before crashing chassis 18-130 and forcing the No. 18 team to use a back-up car during the race.