Darlington: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin preview

KYLE BUSCH & DENNY HAMLIN Battling for Z-Line Bragging Rights at Darlington HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 5, 2010) - Last fall, it was the Battle of Richmond. This week, it's the Duel at Darlington. And just like last year, thanks to Z-Line Designs,...

Battling for Z-Line Bragging Rights at Darlington

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 5, 2010) - Last fall, it was the Battle of Richmond. This week, it's the Duel at Darlington. And just like last year, thanks to Z-Line Designs, the real winners will be the charities of Operation Helmet and Racing for Kids.

Kyle Busch and Jim Sexton (Z-Line Designs founder and CEO), along with Racing for Kids, will square off against Denny Hamlin, Monica Sexton (Jim's wife) and Operation Helmet in Friday night's Royal Purple 200 presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Bragging rights will be on the line as Z-Line Designs, the designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture, will sponsor both the No. 18 Toyota of Busch and the No. 20 Toyota of Hamlin. Each car is fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).

Jim Sexton will sit atop Busch's pit box next to crew chief Jason Ratcliff while Sexton's wife Monica will sit atop Hamlin's pit box next to crew chief Kevin Kidd.

Busch's No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota will feature the logo of Racing for Kids, a charity founded in Detroit in 1989 that uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children.

Hamlin's No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota will feature the logo of Operation Helmet, a 100-percent volunteer, non-partisan charitable organization headquartered in Montgomery, Texas, that provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And while Jim and Monica Sexton will be cheering on their respective drivers to victory lane, the charities will ultimately come out victorious. Prior to the race, the Sextons will present checks for $25,000 apiece to Racing for Kids and Operation Helmet. And the Z-Line Designs driver that finishes the highest in the race will earn an extra $10,000 for the charity represented on their car.

Last fall, Hamlin out-dueled Busch at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in the inaugural Z-Line charity battle. Like Richmond, Darlington should be quite the matchup. Busch finished an incredible second in September 2003 in his first start at Darlington in what was only his third-ever race in the Nationwide Series. He won the pole in March 2004 and nearly scored his first Nationwide Series victory at the 1.33-mile oval in 2009 when he led 143 of 153 laps, but cut a tire down with less than 10 laps remaining and finished a disappointing 16th. Busch has also had success in the Sprint Cup Series at Darlington, having won in May 2008.

Hamlin is no stranger to victory lane in Darlington as he drove the No. 20 to wins in May 2006 and May 2007 and has never finished worse than eighth in four career starts at the 1.33-mile oval. In four Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington, Hamlin has never finished worse than 13th.

It's Sexton vs. Sexton Friday night in Darlington. And no matter who wins, there will be two great charities - Racing for Kids and Operation Helmet - that will ultimately benefit.

Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Racing For Kids NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

There's a little bit more on the line this weekend, internally, with Z-Line Designs on both the Nos. 18 and 20 cars for JGR. Do you think you can stay ahead of Denny Hamlin and the No. 20 to bring home bragging rights for Jim and for Racing for Kids?

"I hope so, but I think Denny (Hamlin), Kevin, (Kidd, crew chief) and those guys are always tough because their equipment is the same as ours, and we know how good that is. They've only worked together once but finished second at Las Vegas, so I know they'll be tough. Jim Sexton with Z-Line Designs, that guy is awesome, and he's been behind me the last three years through thick and thin and that means a lot to me. It would certainly be the icing on the cake to get Jim and Z-Line the win, but the important thing is that Operation Helmet and Racing for Kids are each getting a lot of money, so they both win no matter what happens on the racetrack."

What challenges do you face at Darlington?

"The toughest thing, now, is it's so hard to pass there. It's really a one-lane racetrack. The lane that everyone runs in is the fastest lane. It's hard to get the air on your nose in order to make your car turn without being too loose or setting your car up too loose and slapping the wall there. Once you get out there in a run, you pretty much start running around in traffic and you're almost stuck."

What do drivers mean when they say you have to "race the track" at Darlington?

"You can't really pass there, it's so difficult, so you run your laps until you get to a pit stop and try to get your guys to have a good stop for you so you can jump a couple of guys. Pit stops become really important there and (so is) track position and trying to stay up front."

What does it take to win at Darlington?

"You just have to be patient. You just have to bide you're your time, and I wasn't very good at that last year. You have to make sure you keep working on your car."

Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Racing For Kids NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

Darlington is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, with each end being different. Is it all about compromise?

"It is. You're always going to be better at one end over the other. You just try to find that compromise. Or, you pick an end that you think will be the difference between where you can pass or the difference between winning and losing the race. If you're really good in (turns) one and two, you'll probably be tight in (turns) three and four. Or, if you're good in three and four, you might be loose coming off of two. We've had some good cars there in the past and some good notes. The (No.) 20 car has won there in the past and we ran strong there last year until a tire went down, so we should be in pretty good shape."

You were born in Sumter, S.C., so do you have any memories as you return to your home state?

"I was born there, but I moved when I was probably 4 or 5 years old and haven't lived there since. But, it's still a neat place to go back to. There are a lot of stories I hear from my family and my mom and dad when they were living there. It's always a fun place to go back to."

Jim Sexton, Founder and CEO of Z-Line Designs, who will be in support of Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team:

What are your thoughts on the Sexton vs. Sexton battle this week at Darlington?

"Monica is going to get a run for her money if she thinks that our Racing For Kids team is going to give anything less than 110 percent. This charity uses the popularity of motorsports to bring public attention and funding to the health care needs of children. Drivers visit area hospitals, and some patients actually come to the race course for 'a-day-at-the-track,' where they get to meet the drivers, watch practice sessions and tour the paddock area. We know that Racing For Kids has helped sick children get better faster and we strongly support efforts to improve health care for all children."

Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Z-Line Designs / Operation Helmet NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

There's a little bit more on the line this weekend, internally, with Z-Line Designs on both the Nos. 18 and 20 cars for JGR. Do you think you can stay ahead of Kyle Busch and the 18 team to bring home some more money for Operation Helmet?

"We're going to try. I know the 18 guys have been tough all year. It's pretty cool to have Z-Line on both team cars. That's something you don't see a whole lot of. The fact that there is a little rivalry between Jim and Monica (Sexton) makes it more interesting. They're both great people and I've had a chance to drive for them before and they really do a great job of supporting you. I know Monica's going to be on my pit box and we're going to try and win the race and finish ahead of Kyle to give Monica bragging rights and to raise some awareness for Operation Helmet."

You have two Nationwide Series victories at Darlington and have never finished worse than 13th in Nationwide or Sprint Cup competition there. What is it about Darlington that you like?

"Darlington is definitely worthy of its place among the more difficult tracks we go to. It's a bit of throwback track and I think that's why it's respected so much. A lot of great drivers - the legends in this sport - raced and won there. I really do look forward to going to Darlington. It's a track that I like and a track where we've run very well in the past. It's a tough track - a demanding track - so you need to have a great car, but you need to have a ton of focus there, as well, because it's so easy to get in trouble."

Kevin Kidd, Crew Chief of the No. 20 Z-Line Designs / Operation Helmet NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

This will mark only the second time you've been a crew chief with Denny. Is it tough to work a lot of races with Joey Logano and then have to transition and work with Denny?

"It's tough because, with Joey, we've been together enough now that I kind of know what he's looking for in the car. We're starting to really understand each other and work well together. With Denny, we just haven't been around each other and worked enough with each other to get those details worked out, yet. Denny is a very successful racecar driver and, at Las Vegas, we did a very good job of getting the car where it needed to be. It just probably took us a little longer to get there than if we had worked together before. So that's what makes it tough. You just don't get to develop that continuity."

A lot of people say Darlington is one of the toughest places for a crew chief to set up a car. Is that a true statement?

"It is tough. It's one of those places that, it seems like, if you're off just a little bit, it gets magnified. It's just a tricky place to get set up for. In my past, I've done pretty well there. I kind of feel like I know what that place needs. Denny has a good past there, too, so I don't feel like we're going to be too bad there."

Monica Sexton, wife of Z-Line Designs Founder and CEO Jim Sexton, who will be in support of Denny Hamlin and the No. 20 team:

Operation Helmet is very important to you. Can you talk about that?

"My father is a retired Brigadier General with the U.S. Army. Anything that I can do to support the troops who risk their lives for our freedom is an honor. Denny (Hamlin) has agreed to drive for the Z-Line Designs Operation Helmet Team, and we're going to push the pedal to the metal to let the fans know about this deserving organization."

Kyle Busch's Car

Chassis No. 1894: This car has four wins in five appearances on-track. In 2009, Kyle Busch won with Chassis No. 1894 in May at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and in July at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. In November 2009 at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch started fourth and finished ninth. The only start for Chassis No. 1894 in 2010 came in April at Phoenix, where Busch started fourth and won after leading 62 of 200 laps.

Denny Hamlin's Car

Chassis No. 2073: Chassis No. 2073 has a long history of competition at JGR with several drivers. The car debuted in 2006 with former JGR driver Aric Almirola at the wheel at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he started 21st and finished 39th after an accident. In November of that year, former JGR driver Tony Stewart started fifth and finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, while Denny Hamlin drove the car in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished fourth. Hamlin returned to the car in February 2007 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and scored an eighth-place result while Stewart finished 10th in Chassis No. 2073 in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. The car returned to Hamlin's hands in April at Texas, where it scored a runner-up result. Almirola then took over the machine in June at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and finished sixth. Chassis No. 2073 did not see action again until February 2008 at Fontana, where Stewart started second and led 136 of 200 laps en route to victory. Stewart then finished 10th with the car in April at Texas, which was the final appreance for the chassis on-track in 2008. Joey Logano finished second with the car in June 2009 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, while Brad Coleman drove it to a 13th-place result in August at Iowa Speedway in Newton. Chassis No. 2073 was then used by Hamlin in September at Dover, but finished 27th after an accident. Prior to the 2010 season, the car was equipped with a new body and Hamlin drove it to a second-place finish in February at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

-source: jgr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Tony Stewart , Brad Coleman , Denny Hamlin , Aric Almirola , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing