Phoenix II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Hitting on 21? Really? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 5, 2008) -- When playing the card game blackjack, pretty much everyone knows that the big payout comes when you get to the magic number of 21. So why in the world is Las Vegas native...

KYLE BUSCH
Hitting on 21? Really?

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 5, 2008) -- When playing the card game blackjack, pretty much everyone knows that the big payout comes when you get to the magic number of 21.

So why in the world is Las Vegas native Kyle Busch hitting on 21? If anyone should know the rules of 21, you'd think it'd be a guy from Las Vegas.

While Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), may not actually be playing much blackjack these days, he's hit plenty of jackpots in 2008. He notched jackpot number 21 last week in the O'Reilly Challenge NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth when he drove JGR's No. 18 Toyota to victory lane for the 21st time.

Busch has scored eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories, 10 Nationwide Series wins and found victory lane three times this season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The 23-year-old looks to add wins 22, 23 and 24 this weekend as he competes in all three series at Phoenix International Raceway. And while the Friday (Truck) and Saturday (Nationwide) shows will be important to Busch, the main event (to borrow another Vegas term) will come Sunday behind the wheel of his No. 18 Pedigree Toyota in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Busch has seven Sprint Cup starts at the 1-mile desert oval and has five top-10 finishes, including three in a row dating back to the spring 2007 race. He won the pole for the spring 2006 event and scored his second-ever Sprint Cup victory on Nov. 13, 2005 in the Checker Auto Parts 500k in his first start at the "Diamond in the Desert."

His "undercard" resume isn't too shabby, either, considering he has won the last two Nationwide Series races at Phoenix, has four top-10 finishes in six starts, and has won the pole three times. In three Craftsman Truck Series starts, he's never qualified worse than 16th and never finished worse than 11th. To top it off, he won the November 2007 race.

So that's why it's time to break the rules this weekend as Busch sets his sights on "22"... and "23" and "24"...

KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry at Phoenix International Raceway

Have you met or exceeded the goals you and the No. 18 team set at the start of the season?

"We've exceeded our goals for the season. Our goals were to get a win first, and then a couple wins, and then solidify ourselves as contenders, get into the 'Chase,' and be able to compete for the championship. We really didn't get a shot to compete for the championship, which is too bad. But there were plenty of highlights, like sweeping the road course races, winning the first race at Atlanta for myself with Joe Gibbs Racing, Snickers and M&M's, Toyota and Steve Addington (crew chief), and winning all the races I've won this year."

You won in your very first Sprint Cup start at Phoenix, along with the last two Nationwide Series races there. What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?

"Phoenix is pretty neat place. For some reason, I've always run well there. I don't know if it's that I'm comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. The coolest thing about Phoenix is that you have two distinctly different corners. Turns one and two are different than three and four, and there's also a kink in the backstretch. Being able to run well there depends on how well you can turn in the center of turns one and two, and yet still have a good drive up off the back straightaway because it's so long and fast. Then, getting into turn three, you really need to rotate. Just past the center of turns three and four, you have a little bit of kink on the apron, where you need to be able to turn and get a good drive off the corner. It's really dependent on how I like the car set up so I'm able to make a good lap time. There are plenty of tricks to that place that you need to know to be successful."

With six combined races left, how many wins do you think you can rack up over the last two weekends?

"We're trying to get as many as we can. It doesn't matter from here on out. There's still two more Cup races, two more Trucks and two more Nationwide, so that's (six) more opportunities to get more. If we happen to win one more, two more, three more -- it doesn't matter what it is. It's just that we're putting the effort in and running up front to have a shot to win each race."

You seem to be comfortable at tracks that are short and flat, like Phoenix. Why is that?

"For some reason, I'm always fast on the flat tracks. I just have fun at those types of places. It's fun for me to be able to get the car hung out and loose all the time. But at a flat track like Phoenix, you can't necessarily do that because you lose your forward bite so much and you can't drive up off the corner as well. I just seem to be comfortable at the one-mile flat tracks, for some reason. It probably has to do with running some of those types of tracks growing up, and also with my Late Model team."

While you've had a lot of success at Phoenix during your career, you've been pretty vocal that you need to get better on the flat tracks in the Sprint Cup car. What are your expectations for this weekend?

"We were okay in the spring race at Phoenix, but we weren't running where we wanted to be. I know everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing has been working extremely hard on our flat track program, recently. That's something that we'll need to improve on for next year to have a shot at the championship. We had trouble at both New Hampshire races and Pocono, in particular, but I know the guys are focused on making those tracks better. Hopefully, we're getting back heading in the right direction on the flat track stuff."

Have all of your wins and records this season really sunk in yet?

"The year's not over, yet, so once the checkered flag falls in the Cup race at Homestead, then it'll be time to reflect and look back on it all and be, like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool.' I don't even know all the numbers, to tell you the truth. All I know is the wins -- the 10 in the Nationwide Series and the 21 overall. It's just phenomenal the way this year's gone. A lot of that success, of course, is right down to Joe Gibbs Racing and all these guys putting their hearts and everything into the organization with the Nationwide stuff and (with) the Cup stuff. It's pretty special times for us, so we'll have to cherish it while we're having it and, hopefully, it'll continue somewhat next year, too."

-credit: jgr

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