Darlington Raceway 200
You Just Made the List
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 3, 2011) – Everyone enjoys two-for-one sales. Basically, you get two items for the price of one, and that’s what could happen if Kyle Busch wins this week’s Royal Purple 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
If Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finds victory lane, he’ll be just one win away from tying the legendary Mark Martin for the lead in career wins in NASCAR’s second-highest division. Martin has 49 Nationwide Series victories in his illustrious career, but Busch, who has four victories in 2011, is right on his tail with 47 trips to victory lane.
A win would not just get Busch to victory number 48, but also shrink another of Busch’s “lists,” to five. There are 23 tracks throughout North America that will host a Nationwide race during the 2011 season. After scoring his first series victory at Talladega three weeks ago, Busch now has won at all but six of them.
Busch has never competed at one of those six tracks – Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – and is not scheduled to do so this season. And he only ran the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal once, when he finished 10th in 2009. That leaves Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Darlington as circuits he has competed at more than once, yet not scored a Nationwide Series victory.
He has come close at Darlington, however, especially in the last two years. In 2009, he led 143 of 153 laps (the race was extended six laps due to a green-white-checkered finish), but a cut tire late in the race relegated him to a frustrating 16th-place finish. Last year, he led 17 laps and battled throughout the night with his teammate, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for JGR, before having to settle for second in the 1-2 finish for Z-Line.
While he hasn’t been to victory lane at Darlington in the Nationwide Series, Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the historic track in 2008 after leading 169 of 367 laps. And he won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race earlier this year, but not as a driver – as an owner. Kasey Kahne piloted the No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports to victory on March 12 after leading 95 of 147 laps.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
What makes Darlington such a challenging racetrack?
“It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now. You’ve really got to be able to get as close as you can to the wall in order to carry your momentum through the corners because you’ve got to make the straightaways as long as you can. The track is very narrow on entries and exits, so you’re always trying to round the place as much as you can. It’s very one-groovish. You can’t really run side-by-side there. Anytime you get alongside somebody, you basically have to let them go. It’s a very big give-and-take-type track. It’s a lot harder to pass now with the fresh asphalt than it used to be. It’s really aero-sensitive, now, to where it used to be more about mechanical grip and getting your car to handle well and handle over the bumps well and keep the tires on it. Now, you’re restricted off the car in front of you and are trying to find some air, basically.”
It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now.
You are now two races away from tying Mark Martin for the career lead in Nationwide Series victories. What does that mean for you?
“All in all, the Mark Martin record – it’s two away, it’s three away from being my own. When and where that happens, we’re not going to pick a date. It’s too hard to do that. We have Darlington and we’ve got Dover coming up. There are definitely some good opportunities to get a victory. If it comes through this year, great. If not, then we’ll just wait and try to do it next year.”
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
Darlington is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, with each end being different. Is it 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 but, obviously with the new car, it’s a different deal. We feel good about going there.”
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.”
Kyle is now two races away from tying Mark Martin for the career lead in Nationwide Series victories. What does that mean for you?
“To think you could even reach Mark Martin’s record and to be a part of that – nobody is more deserving of that than Kyle. He’s worked really hard for it and, for us to be a part of that as his team, is going to be fun. It’s going to happen. When it is going to happen and where it is going to happen, who knows? We’re just going to keep winning races like we’ve been doing and enjoy it.”
Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry
Chassis No. 18-120: This car is making its second ever start as its debut event came in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Busch started seventh and led 18 of 150 laps en route to victory in the Royal Purple 300.