Joe Gibbs Racing press release
Let’s Check Another One Off the List
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 31, 2011) – What did you do on your summer vacation?
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), achieved two major milestones as he won his 100th race in NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck) and his 50th Nationwide Series race to become the all-time wins leader in that series.
His 100th victory in NASCAR came in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where Busch drove the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Camry to victory in the New England 200. Since then, Busch added win number 101 in the Sprint Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and victory 102 in last week’s Nationwide Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
His Nationwide win at Bristol also was his 50th victory in the series, breaking Mark Martin’s record of 49 all-time victories.
With those two milestones complete, not too far removed from Busch’s 2009 Nationwide title, one might wonder what is left for the Las Vegas native to accomplish in the series.
Believe it or not, Busch has never won a Nationwide race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Great Clips 300.
There are 23 tracks in North America that will host a Nationwide race during the 2011 season and Busch has won at all but four of them. He has never competed at one of those four tracks – Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – 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 and Atlanta as circuits he has competed at more than once, yet not scored a Nationwide victory.
He’s had success at Atlanta in other series, however, having won a Sprint Cup race at the 1.54-mile oval in March 2008, as well as four Camping World Truck Series events in October 2005 and 2007, and March 2008 and 2009.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
What are your memories of racing in Atlanta?
“I’ve won a few Truck races there, which has been fun. I have not won a Nationwide race there. I finished second three or four times, so it’s been an Achilles’ heel for me, I guess. The Cup races there, I’ve either been really good or mediocre or really bad. There have been times where I’ve been really good throughout the event. Last year, I think Denny (Hamlin) and I were first and second for a long time and then I kind of faded off and he ran really well until he blew up. And we finished fifth, I think. I’ve finished 12th there like seven times, I guess. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to keep the grip in my car for the long haul, as long you need throughout a run. I’m really fast for the first five, eight laps. But then, after that, I seem to slip more than anyone else.”
What does it take to be successful at Atlanta?
“It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of downforce, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”
Where does breaking Mark Martin’s record rank in your accomplishments?
“There are an awful lot of accomplishments and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they fall. Certainly last week (at Bristol) was a pretty big one. Just being able to race that hard and race against a teammate (Joey Logano) like that, knowing that he had just as good of stuff as I did. To barely beat him there at the end – if there were two more laps, he probably would have gotten me. It was only 250 (laps), so that was all we needed. Certainly, it was great to have Mark (Martin) with us in victory lane in Loudon (N.H.) and take some photos with him for tying him. Being able to beat him and get atop the all-time win list in the Nationwide Series was special for us as a team and for me as a driver.”
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
Atlanta is one of the few racetracks that Kyle has not won at in the Nationwide Series. Talk about checking that track off the list and the challenges of racing at Atlanta.
“Atlanta would be a big one for us. Kyle usually runs really well there, but we just haven’t been able to close the deal, yet. We’ve led a lot of laps and run second but just haven’t been able to get the win. I think we’ll be good at Atlanta. It’s one of his better racetracks. It’s very similar to Charlotte and Texas, where he’s won a lot of races. He’s won a Cup race at Atlanta and a few Truck races, so I know he’ll be prepared for it and I know he’ll do well if we can provide a good car for him. It’d be neat to finally get one at Atlanta – that’s a neat place. It’s superfast, especially when we’re running at night. I enjoy it, it’s close to home and, hopefully, we can do just a little bit better than we have.”
You’ve had a couple of days to reflect on helping Kyle get his 50th win in the Nationwide Series. How special was that for you?
“It was a pretty big deal. We’ve been extremely blessed with the victories we’ve had, not only this year but the last several years. First, it was number 49 and you were just thinking, ‘Man let’s just get that and get it under our belt.’ The pressure does kind of grow. When you get to something that big, the pressure does begin to grow each week. So to get to Mark Martin’s record at Loudon was a big deal and, from that point on, you just wonder where number 50 is going to happen. And, there is really not a better racetrack than Bristol. It’s so unique and you have to persevere and it’s just a tough racetrack. And then for it to be so close at the end with our teammate (Joey Logano), it was exciting. Our hearts were pounding there at the end. You’ll always remember number 50, but I think you’ll remember it even more because of the way it ended. It was fun to share that not only with the guys on the 18 car with Kyle, but also the 20 guys. They had a piece of it, as well, and it was cool all around. It was neat and we’ll remember it forever, but I’d like to go win number 51 now.”