Las Vegas: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Home Game HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2010) -- It's no secret that Kyle Busch loves to win races, no matter what the series and where the racetrack might be located. But if there is one track with special meaning for the 2009...


Home Game

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2010) -- It's no secret that Kyle Busch loves to win races, no matter what the series and where the racetrack might be located. But if there is one track with special meaning for the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, it's Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), a facility Busch saw built from the ground up while he was beginning his career in the Nevada dessert.

While racing Legends cars in the shadow of the LVMS construction, Busch hoped and dreamed that one day he would have a chance to compete in the NASCAR races that would be held at the 1.5-mile oval.

That dream became a reality on Oct. 14, 2001 when Busch, at just 16 years old, started third and finished ninth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, an unexpected ruling by NASCAR that enacted a minimum age requirement for competitors in NASCAR's top-three series sidelined Busch until his 18th birthday.

Due to the ruling, Busch didn't compete in NASCAR events at Las Vegas until March 2004 when he finished 15th in the Nationwide Series race. A day later, the 2002 honors graduate from Las Vegas' Durango High School made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, but finished a disappointing 41st after an accident on lap 11.

It took Busch five years, but in March 2009 he won the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas and was finally able to claim victory at his home track.

Did that satisfy the ultra-competitive Busch? Sure, but that race was a year ago, and Busch would like nothing more than to add a Las Vegas Nationwide Series trophy to his collection, and he'll look to do just that in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Nationwide Series race.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Operation Helmet Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished second in the 2007 Nationwide Series race, but has crashed out of the last two races at Las Vegas.

While Busch looks to find victory lane, his car will also sport 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.

Jim Sexton, president and CEO of Z-Line Designs, has been a longtime supporter of Operation Helmet, and is using his sponsorship of Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing to generate increased support for Operation Helmet.

"Our troops give selflessly in protecting our freedom, and Operation Helmet is doing its best to return the favor," said Sexton, whose father in-law, Hugh Wild, served in the armed forces. "Having had a family member in the military further magnifies the importance of this amazing organization."

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Operation Helmet NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry

You scored an exciting Nationwide Series victory last week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Talk about that.

"It was exciting for us. Hopefully, it was exciting for the fans. What we were feeling in the racecar was, hopefully, what the fans were feeling in the grandstands -- the excitement that came down there at the end. What a race. Joey (Logano) was just a dominant force all day. It was really a shame to see him kind of get messed up there at the end. I don't even know what happened, but I think he got loose and we ended up getting by him. We raced down the backstretch with (Greg) Biffle, and (Brad) Keselowski put his nose in there late getting into (turn) three. I thought we were going to wreck, but we made it through there. Going down the frontstretch, I pushed Biffle just to get us down there a little faster so we didn't have to battle anyone behind us, and then he got a little loose getting into (turn) one and I was able to get by him and race through (turns) three and four coming to the checkers side-by-side. We just barely edged it out. It was nerve-wracking there for a little bit. I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to win it, but we held it out just in the nick of time."

You watched Las Vegas Motor Speedway being built. What do you remember about that?

"My family watched the place get built from the ground up. When we were racing out at the Bullring, the track was nothing but a dirt lot. It was actually part of the parking lot for that Bullring racetrack. So, it's come a long ways. I remember sitting up in the grandstands when I was younger and when Kurt (brother) and my dad (Tom) were racing, turning around and looking out there and watching it. They broke ground I think in '95 or '96 or something like that. I just kept turning around and watching it, watched the grandstands go up, the banking be put in, the outside retaining wall, the garages and stuff. Every weekend we were over at the Bullring, we saw what was happening at the big track."

You won last year's Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas. How important is it for you to win the Nationwide Series race there in 2010?

"Obviously being from Las Vegas, it's a huge race for me. My preference would be to win both races at Las Vegas and get a sweep for the weekend. It'd be nice to win the Nationwide race though, considering we've crashed out of the last two races there. It was awesome winning the Sprint Cup race there, so I'd love to get to victory lane again with Z-Line Designs and celebrate in my hometown."

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs / Operation Helmet NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry

Being in the desert, does LVMS age faster than other racetracks because of the constant sunlight on it?

"I don't know. It seems to me that the tracks that go through a tough winter, like Kentucky, seem to change more year to year. More than the tracks that just get heat and sunlight. It's the hot summers and the freezing winters that make the changes. I would say Vegas probably changes less because the climate doesn't change as much."

With Kyle being a Las Vegas native, how important is it for you and the Z-Line Designs team to put him in victory lane?

"It's real important. When we went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago and tested with Kyle -- and that was one of the first tests we did with Kyle -- we could tell how important it was to him. Winning at every track is a big deal, but I think for Kyle, winning out there is even a bigger deal. I lived in Texas for 13 years, so every time I go to Texas, it's a big deal for me, even though I don't live there anymore."

The Car

Chassis No. 1888: This car made its debut in May 2009 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway where Busch started second and finished third. It's only other start came in November at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth when Busch started sixth and led 179 of 200 laps en route to winning the O'Reilly Challenge.

-source: jgr

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Drivers Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing