KYLE BUSCH Play it Again, Sam HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 12, 2008) -- For a 23-year-old, Kyle Busch has a rather unusual appreciation for racing history and the legendary drivers who have helped make the sport what it is today. Then again,...
Play it Again, Sam
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 12, 2008) -- For a 23-year-old, Kyle Busch has a rather unusual appreciation for racing history and the legendary drivers who have helped make the sport what it is today.
Then again, Busch has proven time and again this season that he's not the typical 23-year-old race car driver, evidenced by his 21 total wins across NASCAR's top three tiers -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Craftsman Truck Series.
Ten of those victories this season have come in the Nationwide Series where, in Saturday's season-ending Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Busch has the opportunity to permanently etch his name in the record books as the winningest driver ever in a single season.
His 10th Nationwide Series win two weekends ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth tied Busch with the legendary Sam Ard, who has held the mark since 1983. Immediately after the race, Busch pledged $100,000 to Ard, who at the age of 69 is battling Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and whose family is beset by financial issues. Busch admitted afterward he felt the dollar amount "was not much," and that it was the least he could do for one of NASCAR's pioneers in a time of need. But for the Ards, it was an enormous gesture in the midst of mounting medical bills.
Consider that Busch's winnings for just that Saturday afternoon event in Texas totaled $71,985. In stark contrast, Ard's winnings for the entire 1983 season, during which he won 10 races and captured his first of two Nationwide Series championships, was $140,000. Busch's Nationwide Series winnings in 29 races this season have surpassed $1.3 million.
A year ago this weekend, Busch, the 2004 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year who now has 21 career series victories, relished the opportunity to meet the legendary Ard at Homestead during a ceremonial introduction of former series greats. It was a moment Busch said he'd never forget, and it made the opportunity to offer his support to the former driver and his family two weekends ago at Texas all the sweeter.
Now, at the age of 23, Busch has the chance to make history himself, and the odds are certainly in his favor. Eight of his 10 Nationwide Series wins this season have come with the No. 18 JGR Toyota team he's back with for one final time in 2008. He's also scored one of the JGR No. 20 Toyota team's nine victories this season, and another among his 10 outings with Braun Racing's No. 32 Toyota team.
Another win Saturday at Homestead would also be Busch's fifth in a row in the No. 18 racing machine, and the eighth of the year for Z-Line Designs, the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture, which has already made it to victory lane seven times this season at the hands of JGR Sprint Cup Series regulars Busch (four times), Denny Hamlin (twice) and Tony Stewart (once). It would also add to JGR's series-record 19 overall Nationwide wins in a season by a single organization.
For a young driver with such an appreciation for the history of his sport, the chance to make history on Saturday is simply priceless.
Kyle Busch -- Driver, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Homestead-Miami Speedway
How much appreciation do you have for the history of the Nationwide Series, and have you ever met Sam Ard in person before donating money to his family after the Texas race?
"Sam came to a race -- I think it was maybe Homestead last year. NASCAR had some champions of the past years there, and when Sam was there, I shook his hand and said hello to him and told him what I thought he means to this sport. That was about the only time I've ever interacted with him. I know his record of 10 wins and I know what he's done for the sport. I know what all that is and how he's built the Nationwide Series. His name is one of the lead names you look at along with (Tommy) Houston, (Mark) Martin and (Tommy) Ellis and all those guys. It's a pretty cool list of names to look at and see who's built the series, and I'm certainly honored to share the win record with Sam and possibly add to it at Homestead this weekend."
How does this race team continue to be so successful even though there have been several changes within the team throughout the year?
"I think a lot of it comes down to the preparation at the shop. The guys who come on the road and do all of the work on the road are now at the shop doing the work on the cars. So Jason Ratcliff and the guys are getting them squared away back at the shop and they are fast right off the truck, and Joel Weidman is doing a great job once we are at the track. That makes my job easier, it makes the crew chief's job easier here, and it makes everybody's job easier. Over the last several races where we've won in the 18 car, we've won the races off the truck. We've just made minimal gains on the cars when we've gotten to the race track and made them a little bit better, and we've just been able to capitalize on good track position and being able to be at the right positions at the right times."
What is it about Joe Gibbs Racing and its Nationwide Series program that you can hop into either car and run up front?
"I don't know what it is that they've found, but they've got some grip in their cars, that's for sure. The whole package of the race car is phenomenal. Just the way that they turn, the way that they grip through the corners or the way they accelerate out of the corners with rear grip. It's just a lot of fun to drive those cars because they're so fast. There have been plenty of times I get out of the 18 car and think, 'Wow, this is fun because this is pretty cool to drive.' It's just a privilege to be able to run those cars, and for anybody who's able to get in them, they know what it feels like. And fortunately this year for Joey (Logano), Denny (Hamlin), Tony (Stewart) and myself, it's been a great ride. I'm just hoping that we can get Z-Line Designs to victory lane one more time and I have a shot at the 11th win. We're going to try, that's for sure."
Chassis No. 1888: This weekend's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the second-ever appearance for Chassis No. 1888. It made its NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., where Kyle Busch drove it to victory with a dominating finish in the Dollar General 300. Busch qualified 16th but worked his way to the front, where he led 132 of 200 laps on the night.