Chicagoland: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH 'We're Putting the Band Back Together' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 2010) -- In the classic 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, Joliet "Jake" Blues and his brother, Elwood Blues, attempt to reunite their famous band in the hopes of raising...

'We're Putting the Band Back Together'

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 8, 2010) -- In the classic 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, Joliet "Jake" Blues and his brother, Elwood Blues, attempt to reunite their famous band in the hopes of raising $5,000 to pay the property tax bill for Sister Mary Stigmata and the Saint Helen of the Blessed Shroud Catholic Orphanage in Calumet City, Ill.

The duo tells its former bandmates, "We're putting the band back together," first in the Armada Room at the Holiday Inn located in Schiller Park, Ill., when they attempt to convince Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Willie "Too Big" Hall, Tom "Bones" Malone and Murphy Dunne to accept their invitation. The line is uttered again when the try to lure "Mr. Fabulous" (a.k.a. Alan Rubin) at the Chez Paul restaurant in Chicago, and during the attempt to gain the talents of Matt "Guitar" Murphy and "Blue" Lou Marini at the Soul Food Cafe on Maxwell Street in the Windy City.

For Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax Toyota team, "the band" got back together recently after a bit of hiatus. After starting 48 consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races in Joe Gibbs Racing's (JGR) No. 18 Toyota Camry, Busch did not drive in the recent standalone Nationwide Series events at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta or the road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., instead handing over the reins to young Brad Coleman.

However, when "the band," consisting of Busch, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the rest of the Z-Line Designs team, got back together in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, they didn't miss a beat and picked up right where they left off.

Prior to Busch's summer break from the No. 18 Toyota, he had won five Nationwide Series races in 2010, including the last two at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway before his sabbatical.

At New Hampshire, Busch started fourth, led 125 of 200 laps and captured his series-high sixth victory of the season and his second in a row at Loudon. He also became the first repeat winner in the Nationwide Series at New Hampshire as no driver since the series first raced at the 1.058-mile oval in 1990 had ever captured a second victory.

Busch, Ratcliff and the rest of the Z-Line Designs team stayed strong by finishing a solid seventh in last week's Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The finish kept the No. 18 Toyota second in the Nationwide Series owner standings, just 81 points behind the No. 22 car of Penske Racing. Despite missing the three June races and, as such, not vying for the driver title, Busch is amazingly still fourth in the driver standings, albeit 515 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.

The Blues Brothers were successful in getting the band back together and managed to sell out a show at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, some 100 miles north of Chicago on Lake Wazzapamani. While there, the president of Clarion Records, the largest recording company on the eastern seaboard, offered them a $10,000 advance on their first recording session. With the money, and after a "brief" police chase, Jake and Elwood manage to pay the $5,000 property tax to the Cook Country (Ill.) Assessor's office.

Entering this weekend's Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Busch isn't looking for a recording contract, but rather another win and more points in order to give JGR its third consecutive owner championship.

Busch has one win (2008) and three top-10 finishes in six Nationwide Series starts at the 1.5-mile oval. The Las Vegas native also won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland in 2008 and was victorious in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event conducted at the track.

So, just like Jake and Elwood, Busch knows how to get around Chicago. And with another victory Saturday night, Busch, like the Blues Brothers, could be singing "Sweet Home Chicago."

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

You finished second to your teammate Joey Logano in last year's race. What do you remember about that race?

"Joey had a better car than us. We worked all through practice trying to get the thing to where it would tighten up into the corner and never really found that balance. It was always loose getting in, so you just couldn't charge the corners, and that's where I felt I was getting beat. Overall, it was a good night and we led a lot of laps. The track was just so aero-sensitive that, when you got around anyone and you slowed down a half-second, the guys behind you caught up. There was one run I got through traffic just barely before Joey did, and then he got stalled in traffic and I pulled back away. It's just a product of the way the cars were with the racetrack. There really wasn't an outside lane. I tried going out there a few times and it was even looser up there. Unfortunately, we just didn't have what it took and settled for second."

How important is clean air at Chicagoland?

"It's important. We saw it last year. Even with newer tires, if I could have gotten to Joey's outside on the second lap on that late restart, I would have had him. But I couldn't get there and he was able to get the clean air and pull away. That's what I did earlier in the race. But when you catch lapped traffic, then you start slowing down and those guys slow you down that much and everybody else catches up. It's just a product of what it is."

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

All mile-and-a-half tracks look the same but have their own characteristics. What makes Chicagoland different than any other 1.5-mile oval?

"It seems like turns three and four are quite a bit different at Chicagoland. For us, it seems like getting through three and four without getting tight is key. If you get through (turns) one and two well, then you usually are going to get tight off of (turn) four. It's just trying to find that balance and that seems to make Chicago kind of unique. Other than that, it's very similar to Texas, and Goodyear brings the same tire to Chicago. A lot of times we start with our Texas setup there and work from there."

You practice and qualify during the heat of the day but then race at night. How does the track change once the sun goes down and how do you prepare for that during practice?

"I kind of like those schedules where we do it in one day because you get more time at home to prepare. Other than that, it's not going to matter much on doing a one-day show. It's going to save you a night of hotel in Chicago. As far as the time we will practice compared to race time, it is really insignificant. Usually, our practice is fairly early there, so changing it to 8:30 a.m. won't really make much of a difference. Once you get into a rhythm and you get through practice and everything is fresh on your mind, it works out better that way."

Compared to other mile-and-a-half tracks, how much does Chicago change when the sun goes down? Do you have to rely on your past notes for a lot of night races because of how the track cools off?

"It seems like it changes at the halfway point of the race. It's usually not that hot there, anyway, but about the halfway point on it seems like the track goes through a transition. You just have to look back on your notes. There's nothing during practice that you can do to try and plan for that. You just have to look back and get an idea of what direction the track is going to go."

How do you feel about your chances for the owner's championship?

"Brad (Coleman) did a nice job for us during his three weeks in the car. A couple races there, if we don't get caught up in somebody else's mess, he gets three top-fives. So he did a great job for us, kept us close in the points and that's what we need to do. We know that every time Kyle (Busch) is in the car, we will have the opportunity to win races and now, after his three weeks, every time Brad is in the car, we expect to finish in the top-five and hopefully give him a shot to get his first win in the Nationwide Series. I think if we hang in there, at the end we can do it. We've had a couple of bad races this year and a couple of DNFs. (Brad) Keselowski hasn't had that, yet, and he's going to. Everybody gets at least one. So if we can keep it close, when he does have it, we'll be right there."

The Car

Chassis No. 1888: This car made its debut in May 2009 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where Busch started second and finished third.

Its only other start in 2009 came in November at Texas Motor Speedway, when Busch started sixth and led 179 of 200 laps en route to winning the O'Reilly Challenge. The next time Chassis No. 1888 saw action was in March 2010 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Busch started fifth and finished 16th. Busch then drove the car in April at Texas, where he started third and led 153 of 200 laps en route to victory. The last start for 1888 came in June at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway where JGR driver Brad Coleman started second and finished sixth.

-source: jgr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Brad Coleman , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing