Michigan: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH New Car Test HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 12, 2010) - It's no secret that Kyle Busch has been quite successful in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as the Las Vegas native has 39 wins and 121 top-10 finishes in 191 career starts. While...

New Car Test

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 12, 2010) - It's no secret that Kyle Busch has been quite successful in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as the Las Vegas native has 39 wins and 121 top-10 finishes in 191 career starts.

While he'll make start 192 in this week's CARFAX 250 Nationwide Series event at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, it's safe to say that the 125-lap race will be a little different than his other 191 starts.

Busch will pilot the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax Toyota Camry at Michigan, but the car will be the new version of the Nationwide Series car. The updated car has, among other things, a wider and taller cockpit, a longer wheelbase and a new front section consisting of a splitter, rather than a valance.

All this adds up to a new challenge for Busch, who has certainly mastered the old-style car, given that he has won at least nine races each year since 2008. He has driven the new car in competition only once, during the July Nationwide Series event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where he finished seventh. However, Daytona is a restrictor-plate racetrack where cars rely on the draft in order to gain top speed.

Many observers feel Michigan will be the first true test of the updated car given that the 2-mile oval has similar characteristics to many 1.5-mile and 2-mile intermediate tracks at which the series competes.

While learning about the new car, Busch will also be aiming for the record books. With nine victories already in 2010, Busch is just one win 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 in 1983.

A victory at Michigan would also put Busch just eight victories behind all-time Nationwide Series race-win leader Mark Martin, whose record currently stands at 48 victories.

Amazingly, despite not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, Busch is third in the championship standings, 473 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski. Busch sat out a string of standalone events in June at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., as well as the series' July stop at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, JGR's No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title. It maintained its spot atop the standings, and it now holds a 34-point advantage over the No. 22 car of Penske Racing. JGR has won the past two Nationwide Series owner's championships.

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

What are your overall thoughts on the Nationwide Series and the new cars?

"I think the Nationwide Series is a great series. It always has been, even when it was the Busch Series and, before that, when it was Grand National. It's been a good learning series for young guys like myself who came in and came up through the ranks and got their feet wet, and then on to the Cup level. A lot of (Sprint) Cup guys still run it, like myself, to get the time on the racetrack, get the time in the cars, see what the tires do - just different experiences. Right now, it's still a really good series. I think, with the cars and the identity it's getting with the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang, I think it's really going to be cool to see those cars. Our Camry looks awesome, and the Chevrolet looks good. The race at Daytona was different because it was a restrictor-plate race. It will be interesting to see how it handles this week at Michigan."

Overall thoughts on Michigan?

"It's just a fun place to race. It's wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing is just trying to get grip there. Some guys are able to get it, other guys can't. You can get it for maybe five laps, and then you're just out to lunch. The biggest thing is just trying to make your car comfortable and make it last throughout a whole tire run and, of course, make it fast, too. And the wide racetrack is good. That's what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That's the biggest deal about it. For me, coming to Michigan, I tend to run well there, for whatever reason, and the biggest deal is trying to finish and finish up front."

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

What has been the biggest challenge for you and the Z-Line Designs team in getting ready to use the new car at Michigan?

"I think the biggest challenge, for us, is that the rules package is just so much different. The concepts are the same. You're still coil-binding, but the dimensions of the car - the splitter versus the valence - the difference in that is probably the biggest challenge for us. Even though there are a lot of things that are the same and similar to the current car, just the way you apply it is going to be so much different. So, it's going to take us a little while to get used to that. Other than that, it hasn't been too bad. There's just a lot of time involved in it."

How beneficial is the Thursday test day at Michigan with the new car?

"I'm not saying you couldn't do without it, but I'm not sure how the race would be without that test day. No one has ever been to Michigan with one of these cars with this rules package. So, even though we went to Daytona a month ago, you can apply some of that, but at Michigan, it's a different ballgame."

What are some of the differences between the old car and the new car that the average fan may not know about?

"Aerodynamically, it's quite a bit different. Especially at the big tracks, that is probably what the driver feels the most. The feedback he gets from the car, aerodynamically, and how it reacts in traffic is quite a bit different. I think the second thing is the splitter. With the valence, you've got a lot more room to work. You don't have a definitive target you have hit. You don't have that hard splitter that you have to hit at five inches. Right now, if you want to go six, you can. If you want to go six-and-a-half, you can. When you're trying to hit that target, sometimes, it can make the front end of these cars less compliant, which is tough to drive, I would think. A big, smooth racetrack, it's probably fine. But at these rough racetracks, or at some rough racetracks, it can be a bear to try to fight your way through that. And then, on top of that, you get a different aerodynamic feel."

The Car
Chassis No. 18104: This is a new car that has not been used before.

-source: jgr

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