Kyle Busch - Adding One More to the List
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 13, 2011) – There are 23 tracks throughout North America that will host a NASCAR Nationwide Series race during the 2011 season, and Kyle Busch has won at all but seven of them.
Like any good statistic, one must look deeper than just the numbers, and Busch’s Nationwide success is no different.
Busch has never competed at one of the seven tracks – Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – and is not scheduled to do so this season. And he only ran the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal once, in 2009, when he finished 10th. That leaves Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as circuits he has competed at more than once yet not scored a Nationwide Series victory.
He can shrink that list this weekend as he pilots the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series event at Talladega.
In seven starts at the 2.66-mile oval, Busch has two top-10 finishes – a third in 2006 and a fourth in 2007. He has led laps in four races, but also was involved in accidents in four races.
Busch and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team have been dominant at just about every type of track – except restrictor-plate races. They’ve never won together at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway or Talladega, the two restrictor-plate tracks on the Nationwide Series schedule. Busch’s only Nationwide Series victory at a restrictor-plate track came at Daytona in 2007, when he was driving for Hendrick Motorsports.
To add Talladega to his list, Busch will need some help as this week’s race will most certainly look like the season-opening race at Daytona, where drivers had to align themselves in two-car drafts to make any headway toward the front of the field. It created a dicey game of bumper cars that sometimes led to drivers involuntarily spinning out their drafting partner.
And in those two-car drafts, the drivers had to work together, for the second car couldn’t run behind the lead car for more than a few laps, otherwise its engine would overheat. That meant the two drivers had to coordinate a 200 mph swap, with the lead car drifting high or low to allow his partner to scoot past, whereupon the former leader of the two-car draft assumed the role of pusher.
The racing is complicated and unlike anything seen before, but Busch knows if he wants to cross another track off his Nationwide Series win list, he must, as they say, “play the game.”
We didn’t spend a lot of time researching and developing this car early on...
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
Last year, JGR struggled a little bit with the new-style Nationwide Series car. This year seems to be going much better. What changed?
“I’m not sure that a lot changed. We’ve just had a little more time with this car and had it on the pull-down rig and the seven-post machine and all the devices that everyone else has used. We didn’t spend a lot of time researching and developing this car early on, but the guys have really worked hard over the winter and we’ve gotten to where the car is a lot better today.”
Describe racing in pairs like we saw at Daytona and will most likely see again at Talladega.
“It was pretty interesting. You have to find a partner who you can work with to push each other around the racetrack. Having a teammate is easier because you can talk to them and you’re a little more familiar with them.”
Who did you have on your radio for the Nationwide Series race at Daytona?
“For the Nationwide Series race we just had Joey (Logano) and Brian (Scott), my teammates. We decided that would be the best option. I had about 10 guys on my radio for the Daytona 500 – Joey and Denny (Hamlin), plus about seven or eight others. We’ll see if we add some guys for the Nationwide Series race at Talladega. It’s just going to depend on what we see in practice on Thursday.”
Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:
Will the same two-car drafting type of racing take place this week at Talladega, like we saw in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races in February at Daytona?
“I’m anticipating it being the same. The rules package for us and for them is the same thing we had at Daytona. I think Daytona, now, is very similar to what Talladega has been the last few years, so I don’t know why it would be any different. Unless NASCAR gets in there and changes something that we’re not aware of at the moment, I anticipate we’ll see the same race we saw at Daytona. Especially for us with this new car, it seems like you get a couple of guys who get together and know what they’re doing. We’ve seen it for a couple of years on the Cup side. Occasionally two guys will get synced up and just drive away for a lap or a lap-and-a-half.”
Knowing that type of racing is going to happen, what is the strategy for the Z-Line Designs team heading into this weekend?
“Initially, your plan is to go out and work with your teammates, be it the 20 (Joey Logano) or the 11 (Brian Scott). But, a lot of times, it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. You just can’t get together. In the end, that would be our hope – that we’d hook up with Joey or Brian –but sometimes you just try to pick the best guy who’s around you and you go with him. At Daytona, it worked out that Kyle and Joey were able to get together early in the race and because they did, they were able to stay up front for most of the event. You want to get together with someone you can learn with in the early stages of the race. You want to learn which car pushes better, how many laps the two cars stay together without getting too hot, stuff like that. So, you want to pick one or two guys and, hopefully, you get familiar with how the cars work together so you can use that information later in the race.”
Will you have the 20 and 11 cars tied into the 18 radio, as well as other cars?
“Our cars are set up every week so that our guys can switch over and talk to each other. At Daytona, Joey didn’t switch over so much, but Kyle would switch over to his channel a lot. We decided not to have any other cars on our radio at Daytona, but if we see a guy in practice who we work well with, we might plug his frequency in there. I’m sure once practice is over, we’ll discuss that and see if we might program in another Toyota team or somebody else who we work well with and is willing to work with us.”
Talladega is one of only seven tracks on this year’s schedule where Kyle has not won in the Nationwide Series. Is this the toughest track to check off the list because it’s such a crapshoot?
“For us, the results at Talladega have not been that good for us. I don’t know why. And the end, it seems like nobody wants to go with us and you have to have that if you’re going to win that race. That’s why a lot of times, I think, at Talladega you’ll see some guys win, not all the time, but sometimes, and you’ll say ‘Wow, I can’t believe he won.’ Or, how many times have we seen a guy get his first win and maybe his only win? More times than not, if you’re going to partner up with a guy, you’re going to have two options, ‘I’m going to go with Kyle Busch, or I’m going to go with this guy over here who is running pretty well and has never won a race.’ I think a lot of guys go with the second option because they think, ‘OK, at the end, I’m going to outsmart him and pass him. If I go with Kyle, I’m just going to end up pushing him to the end because I’m not going to have a chance to beat him at the end.’ I think that’s why they do what they do and that would be my thought process in the car. I think our chance of winning at Talladega is actually better because of what we saw at Daytona, where you can get two cars linked together and they can actually run faster than three. Three guys just can’t seem to stay in sync like two cars can. Whether it be Joey or Brian or another Toyota driver, I think someone will hook up with us at the end and our opportunity will be better than it has been. We’ve had great cars in the past and led laps but, man, we either end up on the rollback (truck) or outside the top-10.”