Daytona II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Hoping for a Summer Heat Wave HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 1, 2009) -- Dallas-based Interstate Batteries has spread the word that summer heat can be a battery's worst enemy. That is unless you have an Interstate Battery under the hood,...


Hoping for a Summer Heat Wave

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 1, 2009) -- Dallas-based Interstate Batteries has spread the word that summer heat can be a battery's worst enemy. That is unless you have an Interstate Battery under the hood, of course.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping a summer heat wave will be his best friend starting with Saturday's night's Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

While various issues kept him out of victory lane during the month of June, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team got back on track last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon by posting a seventh-place result, which might have been even better if rain hadn't cut the race 28 laps short of its scheduled 301-lap distance.

Even better news for the Las Vegas native is a return trip to Daytona this weekend, where he happens to be the defending Coke Zero 400 winner after his first point-paying win at the historic 2.5-mile oval last July. Busch is also the defending champion at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., where the Sprint Cup schedule moves to following Daytona.

In his last visit to Daytona in February, the talented 24-year-old dominated the first 123 laps of the season-opening 51st Daytona 500, leading twice for a race-high 88 laps before getting caught up in a heartbreaking accident started by two cars that were a lap down, ending Busch's once-promising day early.

While the finish was disappointing, Busch, crew chief Steve Addington, and the entire No. 18 team know they have the right stuff at the restrictor-plate tracks to repeat last year's feat in the Coke Zero 400. And with a host of tracks coming up where they have the potential to head to victory lane and improve on their current eighth position in the championship point standings, it's no wonder why Busch and Co. are confident things are looking up.

Last season, Busch's summer heat wave came early as seven of his eight race wins on the season occurred before the end of July. But this year, they'll hope to begin their hot streak during the actual heat of summer and make a run over the next nine races to not only make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but also put the team in position to be a contender when the champion is crowned in November.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

How slick is the track at Daytona in July versus in February, on a scale from one to 10?

"I guess if you put the springtime slickness at a three, this might be like a seven, or maybe an eight. It's not terrible. It's bad, but it's not terrible. Some guys will tell you worse, but I believe our cars really handle well at that track. We had a really good race car at Daytona in February, so I'm expecting to go back there and run well again this weekend. I said earlier how we struggled everywhere, that the only places I really have (not struggled) are Bristol, Richmond and Daytona. That's all we really have. That's where our cars run really strong. I'm looking forward to Daytona this weekend. Hopefully, we can stay out of mayhem and at least have a good, solid run there. Our cars really drive well there. They might bounce a lot and look terrible, but for some reason they're fast and they still grip good and it should be a good race for us."

You've run well at both restrictor-plate tracks since joining JGR last season. What's the difference in mindset between Talladega and Daytona, where you will be racing this weekend?

"Everyone can pretty much run in a big pack at Talladega because it's so smooth. But handling becomes the issue at Daytona, and that's the big difference. At Daytona, you can sense the feel of the car enough to communicate to the crew chief about what you need and how you want your car to handle. I've always been able to run out front at Daytona and stay out of trouble, which has been nice."

As the defending champion of this race, was last year's first Sprint Cup win at Daytona special for you?

"For sure. We didn't have the best car out there, but we got to the right place at the right time and stayed ahead of the 99 (Carl Edwards) there at the end. It's always special to win at Daytona, but to bring Norm (Miller, Chairman, Interstate Batteries) and that green Interstate 18 back to victory lane where it belongs was extra special. I'm just hoping we can be in the right position this weekend and do it again."

Weather tends to play a factor in July at Daytona. Do you make adjustments for the weather?

"The weather is the weather. It's the same for everybody. You just practice at what the track conditions are at that time. You are not going to really adjust your car for daytime or a rain shower -- judging on what's going to happen. You just have to make sure you have enough adjustability (in your car) for whenever the track conditions do change."

You've been through some adversity this year with the No. 18 team. What has been a key to help you keep calm and focused on winning races and the eventual goal of challenging for a Sprint Cup championship?

"Probably the relationship that Steve (Addington) and I have has helped us a lot. I think it just works, since I get fired up and he's always the calm voice over the radio. We're proud of the fact it just works. I think Addington does a good job at that, and Jeff Dickerson (spotter and business manager) does a good job at that, too. I have two guys who are my eyes, who see a lot of things I don't, who can pull me back when they need to. The other thing is, I think he (Addington) gets a lot of respect from the team. All the guys on the whole team respect him for all that he knows, for all he's done in this sport for as many years as he's been around. The same goes for me, too. I respect what he's accomplished in this sport. I feel like he's done a tremendous job and, obviously, he's going to keep doing it when times are tough."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing