KYLE BUSCH Chassis No. 1861: 'I'm Back' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 18, 2010) -- On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan sent a two-word fax out to the media that said, quite simply, "I'm back." It was Jordan's way of announcing to the world that he...
Chassis No. 1861: 'I'm Back'
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 18, 2010) -- On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan sent a two-word fax out to the media that said, quite simply, "I'm back."
It was Jordan's way of announcing to the world that he was returning to the NBA after a brief sabbatical and it sent warning to the other 27 teams in the league that best basketball player on the planet was returning to competition.
Racecars can't send out press releases and few people use fax machines anymore, but if Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) NASCAR Nationwide Series Chassis No. 1861 could send a faxed statement, it might very well borrow Jordan's famous, "I'm back."
Driver Kyle Busch and Chassis No. 1861, which for Friday's Food City 250 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway will wear the colors of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax Toyota Camry for JGR, have been as dominant together as Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
The driver-chassis combination have been victorious in six of their last eight races together dating back to August 2008, when the car broke its maiden in dominating fashion with Busch behind the wheel at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Busch and good old No. 1861 won their next outing together at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth the following November, made it to victory lane twice more during the Las Vegas native's Nationwide Series championship run of 2009 -- at Fontana in February and at Texas in April -- and then returned to their winning ways again at Fontana this past February and in May at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in the car's most recent outing. Add JGR teammate Denny Hamlin's victory in No. 1861 back in September 2008 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and the venerable workhorse, which will be making its 14th career start on Saturday, has won seven times in its last nine races.
The only blemishes for No. 1861 in the recent nine-race stretch have been a second-place run by Busch to JGR teammate Joey Logano at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in June 2008, and an aborted run by Busch thanks to flu-like symptoms suffered during last fall's race at Fontana when Hamlin took over and was involved in a late-race multi-car accident.
Chassis No. 1861 has never turned a wheel at Bristol, but it's a sure bet that Busch will be able to show the machine the fast way around the .533-mile concrete oval. Busch has won the last two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Bristol and has done so in dominating fashion, leading 227 of a possible 403 laps. He's also won at Bristol in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (March 2007, March 2009 and August 2009) and in Nationwide Series competition (March 2006).
In addition to his Nationwide Series victory at Bristol, Busch has nine top-10 finishes and has led 404 totals laps in 12 Nationwide starts.
A win in Chassis No. 1861 would not only add to its already impressive resume, but also help as the championship fight continues. While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, JGR's No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title. It maintained its spot atop the standings following last week's race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, but its advantage was whittled down to just four points over the No. 22 car of Penske Racing.
The No. 22 car was able to cut 30 points off the No. 18 car's lead because it was wheeled by Brad Keselowski to victory lane in the CARFAX 250 at Michigan. Busch and Chassis No. 1861 would like nothing more than to build up a big lead, once again, as JGR looks for its third consecutive Nationwide Series owner's championship.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
What is it about Chassis No. 1861 that has been so good for you and the Z-Line Designs team?
"It's one of my favorite cars in the fleet, obviously, and we've had a lot of success with it. All the cars look the same and are built the same but, for some reason, there's always one car you're really comfortable in. When that car is finally retired, I think I'd probably like to have it for my collection because we've had a lot of wins in that car and it's got a lot of history."
All races on the Nationwide Series schedule are tough, but what makes Bristol so challenging?
"Anything can happen there and you can get caught up in somebody else's wreck. Things happen so fast there that, sometimes, you don't have anywhere to go. It's not like the big tracks, where you might have the apron or the grass to avoid an accident. You just try to get in a rhythm, avoid the wrecks and put yourself in position to win at the end."
Jason Ratcliff, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
What is it about Chassis No. 1861 that has caused it to be so successful?
"For some reason, you always seem to have that one car in your stable that always performs well and responds to change at the racetrack. Now, we've wrecked the car I don't know how many times, and done major repairs. We've wrecked that car so many times that, if it was any other car, I would have said, 'Chop that thing up and throw it in the dumpster.' But, we keep bringing that one back to life and it keeps going to the racetrack and running well. That car is our oldest car and it's had so much success, maybe because it's had the most opportunities (laughs). But, it's a good one. I'd take three more just like it."
Did the two big rebuilds for the car come after the qualifying accidents in 2008 at Las Vegas (Busch) and Darlington (Hamlin)?
"Those are the two that come to mind because they had such a big impact. I'll tell you what, that car for a long time would go out and be the best thing in practice and you'd look forward to showing up the next morning to race and it either couldn't get through qualifying or something crazy would happen, and it just had a hard time winning races for whatever reason. At Darlington, we didn't even get a lap in during qualifying and, at Vegas, thankfully we got a lap in, but then on the second lap tore the right-side frame rail out of it and had to go to a backup. Once it finally made it through qualifying and got out on the racetrack and put a full race together, it was able to win. It's the same car we ran with Tony (Stewart) at Texas in 2007 and had an eight-and-a-half-second lead and ran into the back of somebody and fell back to seventh. It won everything but couldn't get to the checkered flag, but once it got that first win, it's been on a roll ever since and it's been our favorite."
With the additional SAFER Barriers at Bristol making the exit of the turns a little tighter, did you have to adjust your setup during the spring race?
"It was the same old Bristol. I don't think it was as big of change as everyone anticipated. It seems like the drivers were able to adjust just a little bit and it just wasn't that big of an issue."