Fontana II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Go West, Young Man HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- Nineteenth-century journalist Horace Greeley coined the phrase, "Go West, Young Man" to encourage able-bodied individuals to explore new opportunities on the western United...

Go West, Young Man

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- Nineteenth-century journalist Horace Greeley coined the phrase, "Go West, Young Man" to encourage able-bodied individuals to explore new opportunities on the western United States frontier.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), already has a head start.

Growing up in the western desert, the Las Vegas native earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars from 1999 to 2001 and racked up two track championships at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring before moving up to Late Model stock cars. Even with that, winning seemed to come naturally for Busch, as he captured 10 victories in Late Model competition at the Bullring in 2001.

Busch, who now lives near Charlotte, N.C., has since graduated to NASCAR's Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, and always jumps at the chance to "Go West," where he will be again this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for Saturday's Camping World RV Service 300 Nationwide Series race.

While Las Vegas is where he is from, Busch has quickly made Auto Club Speedway his home away from home over the course of his nearly five-year NASCAR career. The 2-mile oval was the site of his historic first Sprint Cup win in September 2005, when he also became the youngest winner ever in Sprint Cup competition.

In fact, in 16 total starts at Auto Club Speedway among NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series divisions, the talented 23-year-old has two wins, seven top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes. Busch also has finished no worse than third over his last three Nationwide Series starts at the Southern California track.

In addition to Busch's high hopes for the weekend, Z-Line Designs -- the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture -- is hoping to score its second straight victory at Auto Club Speedway. Busch's teammate at JGR, Tony Stewart, captured the win in the track's first Nationwide Series race of the season in February sporting the familiar black and red colors Z-Line Designs.

In addition to extending Z-Line's winning streak at California, Busch hopes to add to his ever-growing all-time NASCAR record of 17 overall wins this season across NASCAR's top three series -- three in the Truck Series, six in the Nationwide Series and eight in Sprint Cup.

Busch looks to combine his strong past out west with his record-breaking season by adding more hardware to his collection at a track that's quickly become his new home away from home.

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

What are your overall thoughts heading into the Nationwide Series race at Fontana?

"It's just a fun place to race. Its wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. I didn't run the Nationwide Series race at Michigan, so this will be my first race since the rule change that I get to run where we could see the horsepower difference. At Michigan, both Tony and Joey ran well and toward the front, so I still expect the Z-Line Designs Toyota to be up there like we always are."

How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and more racing grooves?

"That place is tough. It's really a hard race track to get hold of now, especially when it's hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you're puttering around the race track. You feel like you aren't making up any time on the bottom, but when you are running the top groove you feel like you're getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top."

You're racing out west for the first time in several months. Do you enjoy traveling out there and do you feel more comfortable going to that part of the country since that's where you grew up?

"Everybody hates the time change. I use that to my advantage since I think I'm usually on West Coast time anyway. I still haven't gotten East Coast time down, yet. It's fun for me. It's a cool atmosphere and the weather is great without the humidity. If it's hot out, it's nice and warm, so the heat at Fontana doesn't bother me as much as other places. And if it's cold, it's a crisp cold. It's still home and I love being out west, and I really feel at home any time we race out there."

Three years ago this weekend, your first career Sprint Cup win came at Auto Club Speedway. What do you remember about that night in 2005?

"We ran in the top-five all day long, but we really didn't think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant race car. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I've ever driven a race car that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn't believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast."

Chassis No. 1861: This car made its first start of the season earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch at the controls. He led 18 laps before a cut right-front tire and subsequent accident ended his day, resulting in a 31st-place finish. Next, the car attempted to make the race at Darlington (S.C.) in May, but Denny Hamlin wrecked it during qualifying and the No. 18 team did not participate in the event. Since then, JGR worked on rebuilding the car in preparation for its run at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn two weeks ago, where Joey Logano started sixth and brought home a solid seventh-place finish in its most recent outing. Chassis No. 1861 also ran three times last season, with its first race coming at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with former JGR driver Brad Coleman finishing a career-best second. The car returned to action in August at Michigan that same year, where Coleman finished 15th. And finally, Tony Stewart drove this car to a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November after leading a race-high 114 laps. Despite Stewart's dominance that day, contact midway through the race with lapped traffic hurt the car's aerodynamics.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Brad Coleman , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch