Iowa: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Batting .500 HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 28, 2010) -- Put simply, there is no hotter driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series than Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Nebraska Furniture Toyota Camry for Joe...

Batting .500

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 28, 2010) -- Put simply, there is no hotter driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series than Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Nebraska Furniture Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Busch has won eight of the 16 Nationwide Series races he has entered in 2010, giving him a staggering winning percentage of .500. Perhaps more impressive is that Busch has captured five of the last six races he's participated in -- Dover (Del.), Charlotte (N.C.), New Hampshire, Chicago and O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis -- with the only blemish coming via a seventh-place outing earlier this month at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

He decided not to enter four Nationwide Series events in 2010, yet still resides in fourth-place in the driver standings, 508 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski. While Busch is not competing for the driver championship, the No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title, and Busch's eight wins have put the car second in the standings, just one point behind the No. 22 car of Penske Racing.

Busch will look to score win number nine, as well as put the Z-Line Designs/Nebraska Furniture Mart team on top of the owner's standings once again, when he competes in Saturday night's U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.

While Busch has only started two races at Iowa, his record is nearly perfect. In May 2009, he started on the pole and led 168 of 200 laps en route to victory in the Long John Silver's 200 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at the .875-mile oval. Busch returned to Iowa in August 2009 and finished second in the Nationwide Series event after leading 84 of 250 circuits.

This week, he'll look to score his first Nationwide Series win at Iowa and begin a chase toward history. With eight victories already in 2010, Busch is just two wins away from tying the Nationwide Series record of 10 wins in a season that he shares with the legendary Sam Ard. Busch accomplished the feat in 2008, while Ard was the first to reach the 10-win mark during his championship season of 1983.

A win would also put Busch just nine victories behind all-time Nationwide Series race-win leader Mark Martin, whose record currently stands at 48 victories. Busch's win last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park was the 38th of his young career.

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

Overall thoughts on Iowa?

"Iowa is a fun racetrack. It's a neat racetrack, kind of like Richmond. I run really well at Richmond, and I ran well at Iowa last year. Had a shot to win the race, just missed out a little bit toward the end. I feel really good about going out there running the Nationwide race. We'll have Brad (Coleman) practice and qualify, and I will just show up and race and, hopefully, have a good race. It's a place that starts to widen out, but once it starts to widen out, everybody sees the top lane is faster. You kind of have to work yourselves around the traffic a little bit and get a better car."

Last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP), you didn't practice the car at all and still went out and won the race. It will be the same situation this week at Iowa. How do you do it?

"The Z-Line Designs guys build such great race cars at the shop. It's all back on them. They do such a great job for me. We've seen Carl Edwards do it before that way. I'm glad I was able to do it at ORP and, hopefully, we can do it again at Iowa."

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

Are you surprised by the success the Z-Line Designs team has had thus far in 2010?

"Yes and no. There are a couple of tracks we went to where I kind of thought, 'Yeah, I think we have a shot at it if a couple of things go our way, but I don't think it's going to be our day,' and it ended up working out. So, there were two or three where I was actually surprised we were able to get it done at the end of the day. We ran well all day. I just didn't think we were going to have what it took to win it and circumstances sort of went our way. There have been plenty of times when they didn't, so I think maybe it's sort of coming full circle. But, for the most part, I thought we would come out and run well this year. I felt like, by this point in the season, a realistic goal was to have four or five wins, maybe, based on what we've been able to do in the past and him running a limited schedule. So, to have eight, that's a big deal. Obviously, trying to go after that record again, which we've tried to do the last two years, has been a goal of ours. Is it the biggest goal of the season? No. Winning the owner's championship is a pretty big deal, too. You have to win races to win the championship, so if we can do that and also get to that 11th win, that'd be pretty special."

Because Kyle runs so many different series, people may not realize that you have very limited time to spend with him making decisions about set-ups and race strategy. How have you overcome that to be so successful?

"Ever since he started driving for Gibbs, I feel like whenever he wants something in the car -- not all the time, but a lot of the time -- when he says we need to do this or do that, I felt like I knew not only how to give him what he wanted, but to put a number on the amount that he wanted. We've been pretty fortunate at hitting his targets ever since he started driving for us. And, the more you do it, the better you get at it. When he says, 'Hey, I need to be freed up,' or, 'I need to be tightened up,' you know what that means and know what he is looking for. You kind of get a feel for what he wants. It worked out in the beginning. His sensitivity to the adjustments on the car seems to work out with the way this team approaches it. Fortunately, we've been good since he's been in the car. We've been at our peak, as far as the Joe Gibbs Nationwide division, and we've been able to provide good cars. Will it stay that way? Hopefully."

Last year was the first-ever Nationwide Series race at Iowa. Now that you have some notes on the track, how do you approach this year?

"Last year, I felt like we were good, but we were definitely missing a couple areas of the racetrack. So, we're going back quite a bit differently than we did last year. Similar, but different. I think once we got through the race last year, we were able to sit down and say, 'Okay, where could we have been better?' It's one of those deals where you build notes on a racetrack, so when you go back, you have a really good feel for what you need at that racetrack. When you go to a new place with a day or maybe two days of practice, you just can't quite hit it and put it where it needs to be. Now that we've had a chance to look at our notes, hopefully we can prepare better here in the shop than we did last year. I think we know the areas of the racetrack that we need to focus on and where we were lacking last year. We finished second, so we weren't bad, but everyone is in the same boat we are in, that they went home and made their stuff better. I think we'll go back and be strong and, if we fix those areas we needed to work on, we'll have a shot at it."

The Car

Chassis No. 1884: This car's first start came in July 2008 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., where Busch started 10th and led 101 of 200 laps en route to victory in the Dollar General 300. The car was not used again until March 2009 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where Busch started fourth and led 156 of 300 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. The next start for Chassis 1884 came in May 2009 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, where Busch started third, led 108 of 200 laps but finished a disappointing 17th. The car was not used again until August at Bristol, where Busch started 15th and finished 28th after being involved in an accident not of his making. The final time Chassis 1884 saw action in 2009 was in September at Dover, when Busch won the pole and led 109 laps on his way to a fourth-place result. The only start for this car in 2010 came in March at Bristol, when Busch started sixth and finished third after leading 59 of 300 laps.

-source: jgr

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Drivers Brad Keselowski , John Long , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske