Martinsville II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH It's Just a Matter of Time HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 19, 2010) - The winner of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, like every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner there since the mid-1960s, will receive ...

It's Just a Matter of Time

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 19, 2010) - The winner of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, like every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner there since the mid-1960s, will receive the traditional grandfather clock trophy in victory lane.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota, has plenty of trophies in his trophy case from his wins among NASCAR's top three series - 82 of them, to be exact, in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck competition. But there's one trophy he has yet to earn, and it is the seven-foot-tall clock that Martinsville track president Clay Campbell's late grandfather and track founder, H. Clay Earles, decided to award the race winner after teaming up with a local clock company almost five decades ago.

The Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver, who will sport a special M&M's Halloween Fun Packs paint scheme this weekend at Martinsville and next weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, has been closing in on his first win at the tricky, .526-mile paperclip.

Of the 22 venues that will host Sprint Cup events in 2010, Busch has won at least one race in one of NASCAR's top three divisions at 19 of those venues. There are only three current Sprint Cup venues - Martinsville, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway - where Busch has not scored a victory in any of NASCAR's top three series.

While Martinsville hasn't treated Busch particularly well, he was running in the top-five there in March when a late-race caution forced a decision by the M&M's team to pit late in the race, costing precious track position. Then, after making contact with Paul Menard on the ensuing restart, Busch was forced to settle for a 22nd-place finish. Although the finish was disappointing, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers both knew they were capable of winning at Martinsville. Busch has recorded four top-10s in his 11 Sprint Cup starts there, including a pair of fourth-place efforts in 2007, but never did he have a shot to win like he did earlier this season.

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 easily 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 Sprint Cup 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, then do all they can to slow their 3,400-pound racecars enough to roll through the corners 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.

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, and reach into its tried and true bag of tricks in hopes of finding the ultimate treat of a grandfather clock at the end of the day.

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

You've had several top-five finishes at Martinsville, but the last seven races, it's been Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson who have won. What do you see as the gap between yourself and those two? Is it a matter of luck that's kept you from winning? What has allowed Hamlin and Johnson to dominate those races?

"No, they've had the dominating cars and they've been the dominating drivers. I'm not going to say I can get in Denny's car. I've been in equipment that's pretty close. I've been in equipment that's been pretty close to Jimmie's, too. I think I ran fourth to him that time. I think my best finish there was fourth, three times. It's a difficult racetrack. It's not easy for everyone. I mean, Jeff Gordon went through a spell of being one of the best guys there. Dale Earnhardt was one of those guys. Richard Petty, back before that. You know, I feel like I've gotten better there but, still, I've never really been one of the drivers who's been the one to worry about going into Martinsville. I think I had the best car in the spring that I've ever had at Martinsville since I joined JGR, so I'm hoping we can finally get our M&M's Camry to victory lane there."

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. 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), and Denny (Hamlin) are all so good there. They are probably the three 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."

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 (Las) Vegas, and those places are so different. California and Michigan, they're so different. 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. 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 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."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Paul Menard , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Clay Campbell
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing