Hoping To Be the 'Luckiest Dog' at Talladega HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 2009) -- It's only fitting that Pedigree will kick off its 2009 "NASCAR's Luckiest Dog"Â® contest with the first of three primary paint schemes on Kyle Busch's No. 18 ...
Hoping To Be the 'Luckiest Dog' at Talladega
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 2009) -- It's only fitting that Pedigree will kick off its 2009 "NASCAR's Luckiest Dog"® contest with the first of three primary paint schemes on Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
That's because the winner of Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will have to be one "lucky dog" in order to survive the seemingly inevitable multi-car accident that always transpires if one is to find to victory at the massive 2.66-mile tri-oval.
No one knows this more than Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Prior to last season, if Busch didn't have bad luck at Talladega, he wouldn't have had any luck at all.
In his six previous Sprint Cup starts at Talladega leading into 2008, the Las Vegas native had posted a best finish of 11th in the fall 2006 event while the other five finishes weighed in no better than 30th.
But after taking over JGR's No. 18 Toyota Camry last season, Busch's luck on restrictor-plate tracks, particularly at Talladega, changed for the better. After finishing a solid fourth in the 2008 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the talented 23-year-old captured his first-ever win at Talladega in April. He followed that up by winning in July at Daytona as he inched ahead of Carl Edwards just as the caution flag flew on the penultimate lap.
In the four Sprint Cup restrictor-plate races contested in 2008, Busch posted two wins, three top-fives and topped all drivers in laps led with 149. His dominant run on superspeedways continued into 2009 with the 51st Daytona 500. There, Busch led twice for a race-high 88 laps around the 2.5-mile oval before getting caught up in a heartbreaking accident started by two cars that were a lap down, ending his promising bid for restrictor-plate victory No. 3.
If Busch has learned anything at the restrictor-plate tracks, it's that you have to be good to be lucky. While he knows he has great equipment underneath him via the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota provided to him by JGR, he also knows he'll need to be the "Luckiest Dog" in order to survive Talladega and have a chance at repeating his triumph from one year ago.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is it an advantage being the defending race winner at Talladega?
"It doesn't matter at all. It's such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what's going to happen and where the wreck is going to come from."
What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega, like you were able to do last April?
"The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. In that race, you pretty much stay around the bottom, since there is a lot of grip there, and you can pretty much run wide-open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it's hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that's when it starts to get crazy."
Do you believe that Joe Gibbs Racing's cars will be good again at Talladega, like last year?
"I think that our Toyotas are pretty good when we get to the restrictor-plate tracks, so Talladega is going to be fine with our Pedigree Toyota. I think we'll have a good run there. Everybody is typically fast at Talladega, so it will be a little bit different. I'm looking forward to it. I feel like myself and Denny (Hamlin) are good drafting partners. And Joey (Logano), he'll be fine, too. He'll (Logano) be able to get up there and we'll run all together."
Last year's win at Talladega in April finally bucked your streak of bad luck there. How big was it to get the monkey off your back?
"We had a great car. Mark (Cronquist, head engine builder at JGR) and all those guys at the shop did an awesome job building a great Toyota engine and it helped power us up through the field there when we were getting bumped and banged all over the place. I felt pretty fortunate that I was able to win there because it's just been a struggle for as long as I've been going there. I don't think I've ever finished one there without having some sort of damage. That good-luck streak didn't last too long, though, since we got a piece of the big wreck there at the end in the fall race. You just have to survive there and hope you somehow stay out of the inevitable big wreck."
There was some really entertaining drafting at Talladega last year in both races. What's the difference between racing the old car versus the new car there?
"With the old cars, we could bump-draft each other through the corners. And with these cars, they are the same way, but the rear bumpers are high and the front bumpers are low. So we are able to bump-draft all the way through the corner and build up a lot of speed all the way around. But when you have two guys who know what they are doing and keep their car straight, and you don't hit somebody too hard and just sit on them nicely, it really works and you can use it to your advantage."
What race would you like to win next?
"All of them. Next week is where you want to win next. You forget about what happened last week and focus on what's ahead. We missed out on the (Sprint) All-Star race last year. We were the fastest thing there for that and we could've won that race. For the (Coca-Cola) 600, we had a good car going. At the fall Charlotte race, we were in a position to win and I messed up speeding on pit road and we ended up fourth. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just doesn't like me too much. There are plenty of other tracks that we need to win at, too."