Championship Chase Continues at Darlington HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2009) -- Believe it or not, 25.71428 percent of the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is complete. And Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota for Joe Gibbs ...
Championship Chase Continues at Darlington
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2009) -- Believe it or not, 25.71428 percent of the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is complete. And Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, leads the championship standings by 82 points over second-place Carl Edwards with nine of 35 races in the books.
While Edwards has six top-five finishes to Busch's five, the Z-Line Designs driver leads the series in nearly every other statistical category including wins (three), top-10 finishes (six), earnings ($384,540) and laps led (722 -- more than twice as many as Edwards).
Busch will look to build upon those impressive Nationwide Series stats this week in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200, which will be conducted at one of the oldest and toughest tracks on the schedule -- Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Darlington, the 1.366-mile, high-banked, egg-shaped oval, has been part of the NASCAR landscape since 1950, and has always challenged man and machine with its odd shape and high speeds.
But, if there's one guy who was probably made to race at a place like Darlington, it's Busch, whose brash, aggressive driving style has suited him well at the track nicknamed "The Lady in Black."
The Las Vegas native won last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington and, in addition to a Nationwide Series pole in March 2004, has started worse than eighth only once in five Nationwide Series starts there. Perhaps most impressive, however, was the 2003 Nationwide Series event in which Busch, at only 18 years old, finished second in his first Darlington start and his third-ever start in the series.
This week, Busch will look to add Nationwide Series win number four to his 2009 resume, updating a list that already includes Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and last weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
He will do so with valued partner Z-Line Designs, the designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture, on his No. 18 Toyota, along with B.J.'s Wholesale Club.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs / B.J.'s Warehouse NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Darlington Raceway
Do you feel comfortable with your lead in the championship point standings?
"We're really focused on winning the championship in both Cup and Nationwide. We're in championship form. We've just got to keep digging. We can't falter like I did in the beginning of the year. Smooth races like Friday, where nothing goes wrong, are kind of picture-perfect, and if we keep that up, we can stay ahead of Carl, who also has a really solid team. It's still a long way to go, but if we just don't beat ourselves, we have a great shot at the championship."
Is being able to get the car to turn well the key to being successful at Darlington?
"Now it is. With the track resurfaced the way it is, you have to be able to turn well. It used to be all about forward bite and grip in the back of the car. Now, it's all about trying to get grip in the front. Tony (Stewart) won the race there last year and I know the (No.) 18 car was good before some issues in qualifying, so I know Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys will be on their game again this weekend."
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs / B.J.'s Warehouse NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry
Darlington is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, with each end being different. It is all about compromise?
"It is. You're always going to be better at one end over the other. You just try to find that compromise. Or, you pick an end that you think will be the difference between where you can pass or the difference between winning and losing the race. If you're really good in (turns) one and two, you'll probably be tight in (turns) three and four. Or, if you're good in three and four, you might be loose coming off of two. We've had some good cars there in the past and some good notes. The (No.) 20 car has won the last two races there, so we should be in pretty good shape."
How important was winning last week at Richmond to your championship chase?
"Hopefully we can get back on pace with the momentum we had last year. It seemed like last year, once we got rolling, we'd have good races every single week. Leading into Richmond, we'd had good cars. We just couldn't seem the close the deal. Now that we won at Richmond, hopefully we can stay on pace."
Darlington used to be so tough on tires until track officials repaved the track before last year's race. Will anything change this year?
"Goodyear has a different tire this year. They brought a good tire last year, as far as wear. It didn't hardly wear at all. This year, I'm sure we'll see a similar deal. Until the track sees a couple of winters, I don't think we'll see the Darlington of old, where every 10 laps you wanted to come and get a new set of tires. As long as the pavement is new and Goodyear keeps bringing a good tire, you won't see any tire issues at all."
You were born in Sumter, S.C., so do you have any memories as you return to your home state?
"I was born there, but I moved when I was probably 4 or 5 years old and haven't lived there since. But, it's still a neat place to go back to. There are a lot of stories I hear from my family and my mom and dad when they were living there. It's always a fun place to go back to."