Chicagoland: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH SWEET HOME CHICAGOLAND HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 7, 2009) -- The wildly popular 1980 movie The Blues Brothers featured two main characters -- played by actors Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi -- with "Joliet" Jake Blues played...


HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 7, 2009) -- The wildly popular 1980 movie The Blues Brothers featured two main characters -- played by actors Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi -- with "Joliet" Jake Blues played by Ackroyd, and Jake's brother Elwood Blues played by Belushi.

The movie tells a tale of redemption for paroled convict Jake as he and his brother Elwood leave Joliet (Ill.) Prison and set out on a mission to save the Roman Catholic orphanage in which they grew up from foreclosure.

Last year at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), played the role of "Joliet" Kyle, as he captured wins in both the Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup events at the track just southwest of Chicago.

Those victories in the first-ever night races at Chicagoland gave the talented 24-year-old his first two wins at the 1.5-mile oval that opened its doors in 2001, a feat that he'll look to repeat in Saturday night's Sprint Cup 400.

While the Friday-night Nationwide Series win was a dominant one in which he led twice for a race-high 101 laps, the conclusion of Saturday night's Sprint Cup race left everyone talking for quite some time.

When a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, Busch lined up behind three-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. On the final restart, the Las Vegas native made a bold and surprising move to the outside in turns one and two, passing Johnson and holding him off to bring home his seventh win of the season at the time.

The win capped Busch's first-ever Nationwide-Sprint Cup weekend sweep. This past February, Busch became the only driver to win two races in NASCAR's top-three series in one day when he swept both the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series events at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., while also adding his second-ever sweep of a race weekend by winning the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in May.

So as the weekend begins, Busch and his M&M's team will be on a "mission" once again for repeat visits to Sweet Home Chicagoland's victory lane.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

Last year was the first night race at Chicago. What did you learn about how the racetrack changes at night as opposed to other 1.5-mile tracks that you race on?

"The biggest thing I learned last year was the track didn't change much, to be honest with you. It just got cooler and gained grip. The balance didn't change a lot. That was pretty cool to see. Charlotte, we go there and it's probably the most temperamental track as far as temperature. It's so hot during the day and you're sideways loose, busting your butt and then, all of a sudden, you get to nighttime and you're knocking every wall down with the right-front corner. At Chicago, it didn't change much, the track was well-lit, and everything went well in both races there last year."

Where does last year's Sprint Cup win at Chicago rank in terms of special wins for you, knowing how you made a spectacular move on the outside to win?

"Winning both races at Chicago last year, it was just a great weekend. It was special, but there have been several special wins the last couple of years. Winning at Atlanta, Daytona and Infineon last year, and winning at home in Vegas, and on my birthday in Richmond, were also great races this year. But winning Chicago last year and beating Jimmie (Johnson) was definitely neat. Ultimately, I have a lot of respect for him, Jeff Gordon, and anybody in this sport since it's so competitive. To go out and beat guys like that, it's something that's pretty special, and I really cherished that, for sure, and I know M&M's did, too."

How were you able to get around Jimmie Johnson at the end of last year's race?

"When he went to the bottom through (turns) one and two on the final lap, I figured, 'Really, outside is open -- that's where I'm going to have to go.' If he was going to go outside, then I was going to go to the bottom, and so it didn't matter where he was going to go. I was going to go the opposite way. Somehow, I just got the momentum. I was going to try to get to the inside and he wasn't going to let that go. I didn't think my car would keep the momentum and stay free enough on the outside to get up alongside of him. But somehow, it did, and I was just able to get up there. And once I got to him, I'm like, 'All right, this is going to be an exciting (turns) three and four. Let's see if we can get down here.' And then we were able to get by him through the center of the corner and off the exit and lead the last lap there, and we did."

Are you frustrated because you haven't finished up front in recent weeks, even though you've been a contender?

"No. We're not used to finishing here and, to be honest with you, we haven't run great since Richmond, but we've run decent. We need to be better. We definitely need to be better than where we are at. It's so frustrating to just try to get a finish out of the day at most of the these places, recently. And, ultimately, you can't even get that. You're just trying to get a top-10 or a top-15 with what you've got and then something happens, or you have to pit late because you're going to run out of fuel, or this or that or whatever, and it takes you back to a 10-something finish or a 30-something finish. It's just not what this team likes. It's not what this team is used to. And it's just very hard to put together a perfect day, anymore. For some reason, it seems that way. Last year, everything fell right. Even though we had to pit, everybody else had to pit, so it sort of cycled out and we finished up front. This year, it just seems like it isn't going right."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing