One Down-- Only Nine Months to Go HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2009) -- One certainly can't blame Kyle Busch for his disappointment following Sunday's Daytona 500. The talented 23-year old dominated the first 123 laps of the season-opening ...
One Down-- Only Nine Months to Go
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2009) -- One certainly can't blame Kyle Busch for his disappointment following Sunday's Daytona 500.
The talented 23-year old dominated the first 123 laps of the season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, leading twice for a race-high 88 laps around the 2.5-mile oval before getting caught up in a heartbreaking accident started by two cars that were a lap down, ending Busch's once promising day early.
But Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has learned in his four full seasons at NASCAR's top level that the grueling, 36-race Sprint Cup schedule is a marathon. To put things in perspective, Major League Baseball teams, who are just now starting Spring Training, will have crowned a World Series champion several weeks before the Sprint Cup championship is decided in mid-November.
The Las Vegas native will quickly put the disappointment of Daytona behind him and focus on the long season ahead, starting with Sunday's Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
While winning the Daytona 500 would have been a nice prize for Busch, his focus will quickly turn to winning the Sprint Cup title that eluded him in 2008.
Besides, in the 51-year history of the Daytona 500, the race winner has gone on to win the championship just eight times with five different drivers. And since Cale Yarborough won both in 1977, only two drivers have captured the Daytona 500 and the Sprint Cup title in the same year -- Jeff Gordon in 1997 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006.
Busch will look to bounce back in Fontana, a place that has treated him quite well in the past. It's where he accomplished his record-breaking first career Sprint Cup win in 2005 that made him the youngest race winner in Sprint Cup history -- a record that still stands today.
So as Busch and the Interstate Batteries team head to the "Left Coast," their focus already has them working on getting into position to hoist NASCAR's ultimate prize come Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hoisting the Sprint Cup trophy nine months from now will make Daytona a distant memory.
KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry at Auto Club Speedway
Now that Daytona is behind you, what is the focus this weekend and for the rest of the season?
"Daytona was certainly disappointing and frustrating. But the season is so long that you can't let one race bug you once you are on to the next race. Last week was last week, and this week is this week. Just like putting last year behind us, we've already put Daytona behind us and we're focused on what we can do to run well at California and be in a position to win this week for Interstate Batteries. You can't change last week. It is what it is."
What have you learned in the last six months that you hope will help you in 2009 and beyond?
"I didn't learn humble at the beginning. The biggest thing that I've probably learned this past year is just how much great success we had in the beginning of the year -- winning as many overall races that we won -- and not being able to capitalize on that in the last 10 (races). That was pretty hard to swallow. I've learned to put things behind me, though. Through my whole racing career, once I started, it was all about winning. That's the way I was brought up. It was all about going out there and getting the checkered flag and bringing home the trophy and kissing the pretty girl. That's pretty much how Kurt (Busch) and I were both raised, and when we finished second or third in our local short track days, we went home mad. We weren't happy that we were there because we weren't there to finish second or third. I've grown up some and I think there are areas where I've improved. But I think there are still some other areas where I need to get better, too. It's all about learning from each problem that you encounter."
What does becoming the youngest Sprint Cup pole and race winner at California (2005) mean to you? How does it feel knowing your name is in the track record books?
"It's pretty special. We beat Donald Thomas in the spring by a couple months, and then by just a mere three or four days there in the fall when we won the race. It's cool. I don't know how long it will live. We have Joey (Logano) here this year, now, so it probably won't live too long. Records are meant to be broken, so I wish all the best to whoever is up next."
What do you remember about that night in 2005 when you captured your first Sprint Cup win at California?
"We ran in the top-five all day long, but we really didn't think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant racecar. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I've ever driven a racecar that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn't believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast."
Only you and Mark Martin have won in all three NASCAR series at Auto Club Speedway -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck. How does it feel to accomplish something that only Mark Martin has done before?
"It's pretty cool because I've only done it at a couple racetracks, not many. California, Phoenix, and I don't know how many more there are. I know I'm two-for-three at a few of them, so I have another one to get. It's cool, especially with Mark Martin being the only other guy to be able to do it. He's, of course, a legend and pretty respected in his own right, being able to win as many races as he has. California is a strange place in my heart because I remember my first Truck race I came here for, I got kicked out. So, the first Truck race I actually was able to run, I won. That was pretty neat."
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
"That place is tough. It's really a hard racetrack to get hold of, now, especially when it's hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you're puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren't making up any time on the bottom, but when you are running the top groove, you feel like you're getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top."