KYLE BUSCH This Kid Might Have a Future LAS VEGAS (Feb. 25, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth is undoubtedly the No. 1 driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series right now, considering he has taken the checkered flag in the season's first two events -- the ...
This Kid Might Have a Future
LAS VEGAS (Feb. 25, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth is undoubtedly the No. 1 driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series right now, considering he has taken the checkered flag in the season's first two events -- the 51st Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and last Sunday's Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
But if there is a driver No. "1A," it's Las Vegas native Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing.
At Daytona, Busch led 18 laps en route to a second-place finish in the season-opening NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. The following weekend at Daytona in the season's first NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Busch led 14 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. On the Sprint Cup side, the 23-year-old won his 60-lap non-points Gatorade Duel qualifying race on the Thursday before the Daytona 500. And in the 500, he clearly had the car to beat, leading 88 laps before being taken out in an accident not of his making and finishing a disappointing 41st.
Pulling triple duty last weekend in Fontana, Busch had an average finish of 1.6 in the three races he entered. On Saturday, he became the first driver to win two races in NASCAR's top divisions on the same day, dominating both the Camping World Truck (95 of 100 laps led) and Nationwide Series (143 of 150 laps led) events on his way to victory lane.
On Sunday, he endured a "tough" outing -- at least by Busch's standards -- finishing a "disappointing" third in the Sprint Cup race.
So, let's recap. Busch has entered all six of NASCAR's point-paying races in its top three divisions this season, finishing in the top-four in five of those races. In those six races, he's led 358 of a possible 843 laps, or 42.4 percent of the laps available to him.
Needless to say, Busch is on a bit of a hot streak, and there's probably no better place to be when you're on a roll than Las Vegas. For Busch, Vegas is also home, and a place where he'd desperately like to score a win in Sunday's Shelby 427 Sprint Cup race.
The 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas' Durango High School has had some success at the 1.5-mile oval, notching two top-five and three top-10 finishes in five Sprint Cup starts, and one top-five finish in five Nationwide Series starts. But by his lofty standards, he isn't satisfied with anything less than victory.
And hey, who goes to Vegas expecting to lose?
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What kind of a challenge is it to try and win three NASCAR races on the same weekend?
"It's never been done before, so it's definitely a challenge. We knew that. I've won two in one weekend a few times. Last year at Atlanta was probably my best shot to win three. We won Friday. Saturday, we led the most laps and were leading with 20 to go, and we had a shock break, putting us in the wall. Then we won on Sunday. The last one's always the hardest to get. It's the hardest to get because it's on Sunday and it's the biggest show. It's not easy in this sport, but maybe one day."
Growing up in the West, was there a historical racing figure, like Dan Gurney, who you looked to for racing inspiration? Who was your first racing hero?
"My first racing hero was Jeff Gordon because I kind of started paying attention to racing when he came on the scene, so I watched him. If I had to pick someone from the West Coast who I sort of looked up to, it'd be Carroll Shelby. He has his Shelby cars built in Vegas, right out there at the speedway. I guess I looked up to him."
Having grown up in Las Vegas, do you still have a lot of friends in the area? Do you get a lot of ticket requests from friends and family?
"I get a lot of ticket requests for California, Vegas and Phoenix -- all the West Coast stops that we run. It's kind of hard to fulfill all of them, but we try when we can. We get to go to M&M's World on the (Las Vegas) Strip to sign some autographs on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of the hometown fans there as well."
How much would it mean to win the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"It'd be cool at Vegas. I'd love to win a Cup race there. It's almost as big as the Coca-Cola 600, not as big as the Brickyard or the Daytona 500. It's probably the third- or fourth-biggest race of the year that we could win -- that I feel like, anyway -- on my list."
What is your fondest racing memory in Las Vegas, and your fondest memory of racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that was definitely a great memory to have."
Do you feel you perform better when you're running races in all three series?
"It was a lot of fun for me to run every race. I like being out there on the racetrack. I would rather be out on the racetrack. The only time when it gets hard on you a little bit is trying to jump back and forth between Truck practice, Cup practice, Nationwide practice and qualifying, and all that stuff on the same day. I run those races to get a sense of the track and how things on the car will change throughout the race. Also, the different lines that you run and the different things that you do to make your car go fast, you can use the next day. There have been plenty of times in a Nationwide or Truck race where I tried some things just to see how they'd work on Sunday in the Cup race. To me, though, when you're out on the racetrack, you would rather be there than sitting in a motorhome watching the race on TV."
You race so many different types of vehicles. How do figure out how to drive each one, since each needs to be driven a different way?
"There's quite a bit of difference in everything I will be driving, this year more than ever. I'm jumping from a Late Model, to a Sprint Cup car, to a Nationwide Series car, to a Truck. Each vehicle is a bit different. The sense of knowing what vehicle you are in is what really matters. You can jump back and forth between them, but if you drive them all the same, then you're really going to struggle. You have to know what tendencies you need to run in the Truck, or the Nationwide Series car, or the Sprint Cup car. Understanding all of that is what makes you a good racecar driver. Utilizing that knowledge at each venue is what might make some guys better at it than others. It's difficult, but it's something I've been doing for quite a while. At the beginning of my racing career, I raced two or three different divisions at my local short track. I'd jump from a Late Model to a Legends car, and then on to a Modified. I was always jumping back and forth between so many different racecars. Being able to do that really helped me to get to where I have an easier time jumping between cars, now."