Nashville: Kyle Busch preview

Not Giving Up On Nashville HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 9, 2009) -- Country music star Pat Green sings the line, "I gave up on Nashville a long time ago," in his song from the late 1990s, Here We Go. Kyle Busch hasn't given up on Nashville or, ...

Not Giving Up On Nashville

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 9, 2009) -- Country music star Pat Green sings the line, "I gave up on Nashville a long time ago," in his song from the late 1990s, Here We Go.

Kyle Busch hasn't given up on Nashville or, rather, Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, for that matter. But one couldn't blame him if he did.

The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing has driven well at the 1.33-mile concrete oval in Lebanon, Tenn., but Lady Luck has never quite been on his side, save for an April 2003 ARCA Re/Max Series victory.

In six NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Nashville, Busch has one pole (March 2008) and has led 191 laps, but he's only finished in the top-15 once -- a sixth-place effort in April 2004.

It's not like Busch hasn't been in contention for Nashville's victory lane and the accompanying Gibson guitar signature winner's trophy.

Last March, he started on the pole and dominated the event, leading 125 of 225 laps, but finished a disappointing 16th after spinning while leading in turn four with 62 laps remaining.

In April 2004, Busch led six laps and was in a four-way battle for the lead with less than 10 laps to go when he and Clint Bowyer made contact, dropping Busch to sixth-place and his only top-10 finish at the track.

If anyone can turn the tide at Nashville, it's Busch, who is second in Nationwide Series points, just 35 markers behind series leader Carl Edwards.

While Edwards leads, it could be argued that no driver is hotter in the series than Busch, who notched his second Nationwide Series victory last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth after starting on the pole. That victory, coupled with Busch's win in February at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., has given the Las Vegas native a solid start to the 35-race season.

Other than an accident that caused him to finish a disappointing 39th in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch has finished sixth or better in every race and has started no worse than 13th.

Of the 30 tracks that will host NASCAR's top three divisions in 2009, Busch has competed at 28 of them at least once, winning at 20. The two tracks where he has not competed in the top-three series are Iowa Speedway in Newton and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal.

The eight venues where Busch has raced but not scored a victory are Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis., Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park and Nashville Superspeedway -- site of Saturday's Pepsi 300.

So, will Busch keep the momentum going this week while sporting Z-Line Designs, the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture, as primary sponsor of his No. 18 Toyota? If he does, he'll not only close the gap on Edwards' lead, he'll also check off another track on his "win list."

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Nashville Superspeedway:

What are your overall thoughts heading into Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway?

"To me, I like going to Nashville. It's a fun little racetrack -- a mile-and-a-third concrete racetrack. I've been so close there a few times, being able to win a race. Last spring, I think I qualified on the pole and led the most laps and, coming down toward the end, just got too loose and spun through the grass. A few years ago before that, we were leading with 10 to go and passed Clint Bowyer, and then he dumped me off turn two. That was the one that Michael Waltrip won. It's a weird racetrack, sometimes. The most prestigious prize you get from that event is the trophy, of course -- the Gibson guitar. Hopefully, we can get one of those and bring it home. I've got one from an ARCA race there, but it sure would be nice to win one in the Nationwide Series."

What do you expect heading into Nashville, which is one of the few concrete tracks the Nationwide Series visits?

"Concrete can be a little treacherous when there isn't a whole lot of rubber on the track, since it gets pretty slick. Once we get some rubber down on the track in practice, it gets a lot better. The first few years I ran at Nashville, the track was really slick. But then they ground on it and built some grip into the track where we can race well with each other there. It's a great place. It's a really fast and cool mile-and-a-quarter-or-so racetrack, so everybody seems to have fun there."

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Nashville Superspeedway

Coming off the victory last week at Texas, how confident are you heading into Nashville?

"Anytime after a win, your confidence is right where it needs to be. Everybody is energized and motivated. We're in pretty good shape. There's going to be some bumps in the road like we had at Vegas or Bristol, but you take it one week at a time. There is plenty of racing left."

The weather in April at Nashville can be unpredictable. How does that affect you as a crew chief?

"It seems like we can go to Nashville with our usual setups, no matter what the weather is doing. The weather doesn't seem to affect it a lot. What it does affect is the overall lap time. The balance on the car seems to stay fairly consistent whether it's cold or hot. The first race, it's usually chilly compared to the second one. The 18 car didn't run there last year, so we're going off the 20 team's notes. But, we should be pretty close. We feel pretty confident."

Normally, Kyle is competing in two, or even three, series on a given weekend. What will it be like having him compete only in the Nationwide race this weekend?

"Yeah, it'll be different. I'm not sure we've ever had a weekend that will compare to this one. It'll be different having him around rather than going to the Sprint Cup car or the (Camping World Series) Truck. We'll have his full attention all weekend."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Michael Waltrip , Gilles Villeneuve , Clint Bowyer , Kyle Busch