KYLE BUSCH That Was Easy HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 17, 2010) -- When a person clicks on www.staples.com, the first thing he or she will see in the upper left hand corner of the Website is the office supply store's logo along with the phrase, ...
That Was Easy
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 17, 2010) -- When a person clicks on www.staples.com, the first thing he or she will see in the upper left hand corner of the Website is the office supply store's logo along with the phrase, "That Was Easy."
When it comes to racing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., those three words couldn't be any truer for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Staples Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Busch has absolutely dominated recent Nationwide Series races at the 2-mile oval, scoring two victories in the last three races and leading 325 of a possible 552 laps (58.8 percent). He led 144 of 150 laps en route to victory in the August 2008 race and then obliterated the field again in February 2009 by leading 143 of 150 laps on his way to victory lane.
In October 2009, he again appeared on his way to an easy victory at Fontana, but flu-like symptoms forced him to exit the No. 18 after leading the first 38 circuits of the 152-lap race, which was extended two laps due to a green-white-checkered finish. His JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, filled in admirably for Busch and led 28 laps before getting caught up in an accident late in the race that left him a disappointing 31st.
This week, Busch returns to Fontana for Saturday's Stater Bros. 300 Nationwide Series event -- the first of the season for Z-Line Designs as a primary sponsor for Busch and the No. 18 Toyota Camry. The San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture will look to pick up right where it left off in 2009.
Busch drove the Z-Line Designs Toyota to the 2009 Nationwide Series title and has recorded nine wins in the last two seasons with Z-Line Designs as a primary sponsor.
Joining Z-Line Designs on the No. 18 machine at Fontana will be Staples, the world's largest office products company. With $23 billion in sales, Staples serves businesses of all sizes and consumers in 27 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Not surprisingly, Busch, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the Z-Line Designs Toyota team are bringing back Chassis No. 1861, the car that has helped Busch dominate the last three Nationwide Series races at Fontana.
And if the past is any indication, Busch, Z-Line President and CEO Jim Sexton and the entire Z-Line Designs/Staples team will stand in victory lane and say, "That was easy."
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Staples NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry
Why have you guys been so good at Auto Club Speedway?
"It's a track I like and I've always run pretty well at. I got my first Sprint Cup pole and my first Sprint Cup win there, so it's obviously a track that has a lot of special meaning to me. Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and the Z-Line Designs guys always give me a great car there and we've always been really fast."
How hard was it to step out of the car last October due to illness?
"No one likes to give up their racecar, especially when it's a good as our Z-Line Designs Camry was last year. We were leading and had a great chance to win, but I just wasn't feeling well at all and I knew that it was in my best interests and the interests of the other drivers for me to step out and turn it over to Denny (Hamlin)."
How important is this race to Z-Line Designs?
"It's very important. Fontana is a big race for Z-Line Designs since it's a California-based company. Jim Sexton (president and CEO of Z-Line) and his wife Monica are such big supporters of me and the whole Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide program. We've had a lot of success at Fontana in the last couple of years and we'd obviously like to get another victory for ourselves and for Z-Line."
You went out west early to shoot a television commercial for Z-Line Designs in Utah. Talk about that.
"Jim and Monica Sexton and everyone at Z-Line Designs have been awesome to work with. Obviously we try to win every week to get them the maximum amount of exposure we can for the Z-Line Designs brand. It was cool to shoot a commercial for Z-Line Designs since we haven't done it before. Samantha (fianc0x00e9e) will also be in the commercial, so that's pretty cool for both of us. In this economy, we all need to work with our sponsors and make sure they're getting everything they can out of their investment."
Jason Ratcliff, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Staples NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry
Why have you guys been so good at Auto Club Speedway?
"I think we've just hit on a setup package that works really well for that type of racetrack. I also believe it's one of Kyle's favorite racetracks. He's had a lot of success there, even before coming to Joe Gibbs Racing. So, him liking that racetrack and it fitting his driving style and us having a good setup that continues to work with just minor tweaks has really worked out for us. It's kind of like Charlotte (N.C.). Every time we go to Charlotte we're pretty good."
Is California a challenging track to set a car up for?
"It's a challenge because the track is so big. With the plates or tapered spacers (between the carburetor and intake manifold) or whatever you want to call them on the Nationwide Series cars, you have to think about it a little bit differently than you did three or four years ago. If you've got a driver that likes the track and runs well there, it makes it a lot of fun."
Is it a challenge to gear up and run for the owner's championship this year after winning the owner and driver's titles last year with one driver -- Kyle Busch?
"We put so much effort into winning the championship last year that it's a different challenge this year competing only for the owner's championship. That's motivating in itself. If we were running for a driver's championship, it'd be different. We'd be motivated in a different way. This group is always eager to go out and win races and compete for championships. We're just as motivated as ever. We're good to go."
Chassis No. 1861: This car has a long history of competition for JGR, including a 5-2 record in its last seven outings. Chassis No. 1861 saw its first race action in June 2007 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with Brad Coleman finishing a career-best second. The car returned to action in August 2007 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where Coleman finished 15th. Former JGR driver Tony Stewart drove this car to a seventh-place finish in November 2007 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth after leading a race-high 114 laps. Despite Stewart's dominance that day, contact midway through the race with lapped traffic hurt the car's aerodynamics and cost him a chance at victory. Chassis No. 1861 made its next start in March 2008 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch at the controls. He led 18 laps before a cut right-front tire and subsequent accident ended his day, resulting in a 31st-place finish. Next, the car attempted to make the race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May 2008, but Denny Hamlin wrecked it during qualifying and the No. 18 team did not participate in the event. JGR rebuilt the car in time for an August 2008 run at Michigan International Speedway, where Joey Logano started sixth and brought home a solid seventh-place finish. In August 2008, Busch used Chassis No. 1861 to lead three times for a race-high 144 laps en route to victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. In September 2008, Hamlin drove this car at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he started 19th and won the race after leading a race-high 99 laps. The car continued its winning ways in its next appreance with Busch leading 174 of 200 laps to win in November 2008 at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch drove the car four times in 2009, scoring victories in February at Fontana, where he started second and won after leading 143 of 150 laps, and again in April at Texas, where he started from the pole and led 178 of 200 laps. In June at Kentucky Speedway, Busch led 162 of 200 laps but finished second to teammate Logano. The last time Chassis No. 1861 was on track was in October at Fontana, where Busch started second and led the first 38 laps before flu-like symptoms force him to exit the No. 18 on lap 39 of the 152-lap race. His JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, filled in for Busch and led 28 laps before getting caught up in an accident late in the race and finishing a disappointing 31st.