Martinsville II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH MARTINSVILLE: MORE TRICKS THAN TREATS HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 20, 2009) -- It would be safe to say that Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, site of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, hasn't been kind to Kyle Busch.


HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 20, 2009) -- It would be safe to say that Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, site of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, hasn't been kind to Kyle Busch. After all, the smallest track on the Sprint Cup tour at .526 of a mile in length has provided more tricks than treats for Busch in his nine previous starts there thanks to its long straightaways, tight corners and minimal racing groove.

So it's fitting that the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver will sport a special paint scheme on his No. 18 M&M's Toyota this weekend showcasing M&M's Halloween Fun Packs since Halloween night is just around the corner.

Of the 30 tracks that will host NASCAR's top three divisions in 2009, Busch has competed at 28 of them at least once and won at 22 of them. This weekend, he'll compete at two of the six venues where he has not been victorious. In addition to Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Busch will fly to Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park to compete in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

While Martinsville hasn't treated him well, Busch has had his share of solid finishes at the paperclip-shaped oval. He's recorded four top-10s in his nine Sprint Cup starts there, including a pair of fourth-place efforts in 2007.

There are, of course, several keys to a good finish at Martinsville. It starts with a good qualifying effort on Friday to ensure not only a good starting spot, but a good pit stall to help Busch get on and off of pit road as fast as possible. Busch's pit crew, impressive all year long, will need to stay on top of its game by performing flawless stops, as track position at Martinsville pays more of a premium than anywhere else on the circuit.

Finally, a good brake package will be crucial for Busch to be competitive for all 500 laps. Throughout the long afternoon, drivers will be at top speed down the long straightaways before doing all they can to slow their 3,400-pound racecar down enough for it to roll through the corner before jumping back on the gas. Few, if any, drivers have been successful at Martinsville if they've used up their brakes before covering the race distance, something the No. 18 team has struggled with in its last two starts at the venerable bullring.

So as Busch and his M&M's Halloween paint scheme head to Martinsville this weekend, the No. 18 team will focus on a total team effort in hopes of finding the ultimate treat this time around. As always, the ghosts of the concrete and goblins of pavement will be waiting as Busch seeks victory at his 23rd different track and his first grandfather clock trophy from Martinsville President Clay Campbell.

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

Are you still trying to figure out Martinsville and are you comfortable racing there now?

"If I had Jeff Gordon's or Jimmie Johnson's success there, then I would be comfortable going there. But I haven't had any success there, yet. I've got maybe two top-fives and don't feel comfortable there. I'm not very good, yet. I've had some decent runs there, where I've felt like we've had a car to win and had a shot to win. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get the track position toward the end of the race. Jeff (Gordon) is so good there and Jimmie (Johnson) is so good there. They are probably the two most difficult guys to pass there because they know the place. They know how to get off the corner and how to roll the middle of the corner there. Everything is timing, and their stuff just works, whatever it is. We've got some work to do on trying to figure it out. I feel more comfortable going there than I did last year. For some reason, Denny (Hamlin) runs well there, and I'm not sure why I can't get my stuff to run well there because we have the same stuff. When we went to 'Little Rock' (in Rockingham, N.C.) and tested before the first race, we gained somewhat because we ran identical lap times as the 48 (Johnson). We were actually a tick better on an 80-lap run than they were on a 60-lap run. We still lost tires there in the spring, so I'm hoping we've figured that out for this time around."

You have the special M&M's Halloween scheme this week. What was your favorite Halloween costume that you wore as a kid?

"Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was kid."

Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and going out trick-or-treating?

"It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone's house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn't be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home."

What kind of candy was your favorite?

"Mainly, everyone always had the fun packs. Back then, which wasn't that long ago, the fun size pack of M&M's was always really popular and I'm sure that hasn't changed too much, even now."

What is it that makes Martinsville so different when it looks so similar to other short tracks?

"Every track is different. There aren't two racetracks out there that are the same. Everybody says that Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte -- those places -- are the same because they look the same from the sky, but they are so, so different. They say Chicago is the same as Kansas and Vegas, and those places are so different. California and Michigan, they are so different. The guys over at Rockingham tried to make a duplicate Martinsville. In my opinion, they were very unsuccessful at being able to do that. It's the closest thing we've got to go test at and try to work on our cars at, but it isn't even close. There are no two racetracks that are the same. I would say that probably the closest racetrack that I grew up racing on was San Bernardino, Calif. -- it was Orange Show Speedway. That's closest to what Martinsville is. I only ran Legends cars there, so it's not a true telling. It was only a quarter-mile big. It's just a tough place because you're so hard on brakes, but your minimum speed there -- everybody's is the same pretty much -- except there are a couple of guys who will get a half-mile-an-hour faster through the center of the corner, and that is the difference between the pole speed and being dead-last. You're looking to find things that will make your car just that much faster there. You want to drive into the corner one foot deeper than that other guy. You want to step on the gas one foot sooner than that other guy, and you want to roll a half-mile-an-hour better than that other guy. That's why it's so finicky and so hard there because everybody runs so tight that any little thing you can find, it can help a lot."

How do you approach Martinsville since track position is so important there?

"It's just a short racetrack and you've got to try to have a good car. But it's hard to have a good car there with the field as tight as it is. Qualifying up front seems to help out a little bit. We know who the guys are who are going to be tough there. Really, there's nothing that you can change about that racetrack to stay out of trouble. Basically, you can be leading the race and have a wreck in front of you while you are trying to lap some guys and that could be it."

-credit: jgr

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