Pocono: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Youngest to 200 Starts HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 2, 2010) -- Kyle Busch has lit up NASCAR's statistical database in recent years, clicking off milestone after milestone well before his 25th birthday, which came just last month. It's...

KYLE BUSCH
Youngest to 200 Starts

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 2, 2010) -- Kyle Busch has lit up NASCAR's statistical database in recent years, clicking off milestone after milestone well before his 25th birthday, which came just last month. It's all happened so quickly that one particular milestone has pretty much snuck up on everybody.

When you think of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers with hundreds of race starts, Busch isn't the first that comes to mind. But, the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Pretzel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be hitting a career milestone this weekend as he'll make his 200th career Sprint Cup start in Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

In fact, not only will Busch make his 200th Sprint Cup start, he'll also be the youngest to do so in NASCAR history. At 25 years, one month and four days, Busch bests the previous mark held by Brian Vickers, who made his 200th start at 25 years, 11 months and three days. In addition to his 200th appearance in a Sprint Cup race, the Las Vegas native has also qualified for 185 NASCAR Nationwide Series and 74 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races since first wheeling a truck at O'Reilly Raceway Park near Indianapolis on Aug. 3, 2001. By Sunday's race at Pocono, Busch will have made 459 starts among NASCAR's top-three series. That's a lot for any driver, let alone one who just turned 25.

Despite all that success, Busch says he continues to learn each and every week, and hopes to take that burgeoning wealth of experience and build it into a Sprint Cup championship run for the No. 18 team.

Case in point: Last year, Busch steamrolled his way to the 2009 Nationwide Series championship -- his first NASCAR title of any kind. Along the way, Busch's numbers were staggering. They included a series-high nine wins, another 11 second-place finishes -- including placing first or second in an astounding 10 consecutive events -- and a single-season, record-tying 25 top-five finishes. Busch also crushed his own single-season record originally set in 2008 by leading 2,698 of a possible 6,715 laps (40.2 percent) and cruised to the championship by a 210-point margin over runner-up Carl Edwards.

Busch has now focused on bringing that consistency to the Sprint Cup Series in 2010, where after 13 rounds on the marathon-like 36-race schedule, he's scored an impressive seven top-10 finishes in a row, along with two wins and four top-five results. It's vaulted him into second in the series' championship standings as the halfway mark to the Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff in September at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway looms.

And, for the first time this season, Busch will focus solely on the Sprint Cup race at Pocono while the Nationwide Series visits Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway without him. Over the course of the next three weeks, the lone addition to his Sprint Cup Series schedule will be the Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn next weekend, as he'll pass on making a trip away from the Sprint Cup venue with the Nationwide Series competing at separate venues over those three weekends.

That says everything about how determined Busch is to win NASCAR's ultimate prize after years of zig-zagging across the country. His quest for the Sprint Cup title continues in earnest this weekend with career start No. 200.

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

Pocono marks the halfway point to the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As the series heads into the summer stretch, how do you feel about your team and your chances of competing for a championship?

"I feel really good about where we're at. I feel our chances are good. At the beginning of the year, we started out a little slow. We had some 20th-place finishes, finishes in the teens, stuff like that. Now, recently, in the last six or seven races, we've clicked off some top-10s and top-fives in a row. We had a win at Dover, a third-place at Charlotte. Now, we go into the summer stretch. Some of the racetracks, I don't excel that well at -- this week at Pocono, for instance. Hopefully, we can get some good runs at those places and keep our momentum with our M&M's Pretzel Camry going, similar to what we've done so far this year."

How has your working relationship progressed with crew chief Dave Rogers?

"I think Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and I have a great working relationship. I had a great working relationship with Steve (Addington, former crew chief). You know, things just didn't seem to click as well with him as they are now with Dave. I think Dave has done a really, really nice job. He came into this deal not knowing a whole lot about these cars. He's really gone to work, learned, made a lot of sacrifices. I can't thank him enough for doing it. His family has made sacrifices. He hasn't been home a whole lot. I'm pretty proud of the way our hard work is paying off. This is why you work as hard as you do."

Do you think you need to change your personality?

"To me, it's hard for me to say that I need to change. Yeah, there are some aspects, probably, that aren't that great. But to me, I am who I am and I guess that's what makes me a colorful personality. M&M's has the most colorful fan. Maybe we need the most colorful driver award. For me, it is what it is and I am who I am. I enjoy racing and racing hard and being as competitive as I am and having the fire that I have because that's what drives me and that's what makes me number one. For me, it's just about trying to become a better racer, which I think I've done this year behind the wheel. There have been some instances where I could have blown up at Dave Rogers (crew chief), or gone off the deep end, but I've kept focus and kept going and have been able to win the race."

Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What's the most difficult part of the track for you?

"The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest. Turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn't go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you're 8 to 10 mph slower than the guy on your outside and they're just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway."

Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?

"Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one we just can't get the cars to turn down there because there's so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a 'buck-40' (140). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you've got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it's tight."

-source: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing