Richmond II: Joe Gibbs Racing preview

KYLE BUSCH & DENNY HAMLIN Battling for Z-Line Bragging Rights at Richmond HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2009) -- Throughout the years, there have been several great rivalries in NASCAR -- Richard Petty vs. David Pearson; Petty vs. Bobby...

KYLE BUSCH & DENNY HAMLIN

Battling for Z-Line Bragging Rights at Richmond

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2009) -- Throughout the years, there have been several great rivalries in NASCAR -- Richard Petty vs. David Pearson; Petty vs. Bobby Allison; Cale Yarborough vs. Darrell Waltrip; Jeff Gordon vs. Dale Earnhardt.

The latest big rivalry in the sport? Jim Sexton vs. Monica Sexton.

Jim Sexton vs. Monica Sexton?

Yes, bragging rights will be on the line in Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway as Z-Line Designs, the designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture, will sponsor both the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch and the No. 20 Toyota of Denny Hamlin. Each car is fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).

Z-Line Designs founder and CEO Jim Sexton will sit atop Busch's pit box next to crew chief Jason Ratcliff, while Sexton's wife, Monica, will sit atop Hamlin's pit box next to crew chief Dave Rogers.

Busch's No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota will feature the logo of Racing for Kids, a charity founded in Detroit in 1989 that uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children.

Hamlin's No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota will feature the logo of Operation Helmet, a 100 percent volunteer, non-partisan charitable organization headquartered in Montgomery, Texas, that provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And while Jim and Monica will be cheering on their respective drivers to victory lane, there is also a charitable bet between the couple.

Jim Sexton and officials from Joe Gibbs Racing initially donated $10,000 each to the "pot," and then Monica Sexton graciously donated another $10,000, bringing the total to $30,000. For whichever driver finishes higher in Friday night's event, the charity on the top-finishing car will receive $20,000, while the "losing" charity, if there such a thing, will receive $10,000.

And the battle for charity and bragging rights should be a good one.

Busch has three victories in Nationwide Series competition at Richmond, including a win in May using chassis No.1894, the same car the No. 18 team is bringing to the .75-mile oval Friday night. In 11 Nationwide Series starts at Richmond, Busch has only finished outside of the top-15 once.

Hamlin, who grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Va., won the May 2008 Nationwide Series race for Z-Line and has five top-10 finishes in eight starts at the .75-mile oval.

It's Sexton vs. Sexton Friday night in Richmond. And no matter who wins, there will be two great charities -- Racing for Kids and Operation Helmet -- that will ultimately benefit.

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Racing For Kids NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry

There's a little bit more on the line this weekend, internally, with Z-Line Designs on both the Nos. 18 and 20 cars for JGR. Do you think you can stay ahead of Denny Hamlin and the No. 20 to bring home some more money for Racing for Kids?

"I hope so, but I think Denny (Hamlin), Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and those guys are always tough because their equipment is the same as ours, and we know how good that is. I know it was special for Denny to win here last year for them, so I know those guys are going to be tough. I'm sure we'll be racing the 20 and the 60 (Carl Edwards) for the win, if we are all there at the end. Jim Sexton with Z-Line Designs, that guy is awesome, and he's been behind me the last two years through thick and thin and that means a lot to me. It would certainly be the icing on the cake to get Jim and Z-Line the win, but also bring home some more money for Racing for Kids, which I know is a really worthwhile cause."

Richmond has quickly become one of your best, if not your best, track. Why have you had so much success there, especially in the Nationwide Series?

"I don't know exactly what it is, but I just feel comfortable there. In May, we just had a smooth night where nothing went wrong. It was kind of picture-perfect, actually, so hopefully we can do that again this weekend. But we know that's going to be tough with Denny in the 20 and I'm sure there'll be some other guys who will be good that I'm not even expecting. Richmond is just a fun short track and the Nationwide cars are fun to drive there. It's pretty fast and it usually spreads out and you'll get a lot of grooves to choose from but, at certain times it's a tight track coming off of (turn) two. You can pretty much count on the usual exciting short-track racing when you go there and hope we can keep that success going there in the Nationwide Series for Z-Line Designs."

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Racing For Kids NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry (continued)

You seem to be comfortable at tracks, especially in the Nationwide Series, that are short and flat like Richmond. Why is that?

"For some reason, I'm always fast on the flat tracks. I just have fun at those types of places. It's fun for me to be able to get the car hung out and loose all the time. But at a flat track like Richmond, you can't necessarily do that because you lose your forward bite so much and you can't drive up off the corner as well. I just seem to be comfortable at the one-mile or less flat tracks, for some reason. It probably has to do with running some of those types of tracks growing up, and also with my Late Model team."

Jim Sexton, Founder and CEO of Z-Line Designs, who will be in support of Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team

What are your thoughts on the Sexton vs. Sexton battle this week at Richmond?

"Monica is going to get a run for her money if she thinks that our Racing For Kids Team is going to give anything less than 110 percent. This charity uses the popularity of motorsports to bring public attention and funding to the health care needs of children. Drivers visit area hospitals, and some patients actually come to the race course for 'a-day-at-the-track,' where they get to meet the drivers, watch practice sessions and tour the paddock area. We know that Racing For Kids has helped sick children get better faster and we strongly support efforts to improve health care for all children."

Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Z-Line Designs/Operation Helmet NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry

There's a little bit more on the line this weekend, internally, with Z-Line Designs on both the Nos. 18 and 20 cars for JGR. Do you think you can stay ahead of Kyle Busch and the 18 team to bring home some more money for Operation Helmet?

"We're going to try. I know the 18 guys have been tough all year. It's pretty cool to have Z-Line on both team cars. That's something you don't see a whole lot of. The fact that there is a little rivalry between Jim and Monica (Sexton) makes it more interesting. They're both great people and I've had a chance to drive for them before and they really do a great job of supporting you. I know Monica's going to be on my pit box and we're going to try and win the race and finish ahead of Kyle to give Monica bragging rights and to raise some money for Operation Helmet."

In May 2008, you finally scored a NASCAR victory at Richmond. Can you talk about that Nationwide Series win?

"It's unbelievable that we were able to get it done in my home state. That's one of the biggest wins of my career. It meant so much to finally break through at Richmond. We weren't that good most of the day, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) just kept making the car better and better throughout the day. I always said that circumstances were going to have to come our way for us to get a win at Richmond. It seems like we never win, whether we have the best car or the worst car. Some guys decided to stay out and not take tires and I knew it was our race to lose. It was so gratifying to get a win in front of the hometown crowd."

What did it mean to win in front of your family and friends?

"It was awesome. Even with all the commotion in victory lane, I could still hear the fans. That meant more to me than anything anybody could give me, or any trophy I could ever have."

Monica Sexton, wife of Z-Line Designs Founder and CEO Jim Sexton, who will be in support of Denny Hamlin and the No. 20 team

Operation Helmet is very important to you. Can you talk about that?

"My father is a retired Brigadier General with the U.S. Army. Anything that I can do to support the troops who risk their lives for our freedom is an honor. Denny (Hamlin) has agreed to drive for the Z-Line Designs Operation Helmet Team and we're going to push the pedal to the metal to let the fans know about this deserving organization."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Richard Petty , Carl Edwards , Bobby Allison , Denny Hamlin , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing