Nashville: Kyle Busch preview

Ready to be a "Guitar Hero" in Nashville HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (March 18, 2008) -- As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes a weekend off for the first time in 2008, Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch plans on spending the first of his three Sprint Cup ...

Ready to be a "Guitar Hero" in Nashville

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (March 18, 2008) -- As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes a weekend off for the first time in 2008, Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch plans on spending the first of his three Sprint Cup off-weekends playing "Guitar Hero."

We're not talking about the popular music video game series of the same name. There won't be enough downtime for that, as Busch has to outrun 42 other "Guitar Hero" wannabees this weekend at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, site of Saturday's Pepsi 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, where the victor gets one of the most unique trophies in motorsports -- a Sam Bass-designed Gibson Les Paul Guitar.

Busch, who will drive the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota this weekend at Nashville, has already laid claim to one of the track's trademark six-strings. In 2003, less than a month shy of his 18th birthday, he won the April ARCA RE/MAX Series event at the 1.33-mile concrete oval in only his second series start. And there's no doubt he'd like to add to his guitar collection this weekend.

Even though he's still racing, taking part in just one race may well seem like a weekend off for Busch. During the first five weeks of 2008, Busch has already logged 2,459 laps while competing in 13 points-paying races in NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series divisions. Not only has Busch logged significant time in a race car, but he's looked incredibly impressive while doing it.

In Sprint Cup Series competition, Busch has led 21.7 percent of the total laps run thus far, leading 336 of an available 1,548 laps. He also has one Sprint Cup win to his credit, which came two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch has led 27.3 percent of all the laps available during the first three races of the season. En route to leading 90 of the 330 laps run thus far in 2008, Busch has recorded Truck Series wins at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Atlanta.

As for the Nationwide Series, the 22-year-old Las Vegas native started the season by earning back-to-back second-place finishes at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Fontana. But in the three races since then, his strong runs have been ruined by bad luck.

At Las Vegas, a cut right front tire sent Busch hard into the outside retaining wall 102 laps into the 202-lap race. In his debut with the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Team at Atlanta, Busch dominated the event, leading five times for a race-high 153 laps before a broken right front shock mount sent his car careening into the outside wall. And at Bristol last weekend, Busch was collected by another car in an early-race accident that ended his day after just 12 laps.

Despite the tough luck, Busch has led 220 of the 581 laps he's completed so far in Nationwide Series competition this season (37.9 percent). Even with his recent problems, Busch's goals remains the same -- run hard, complete all the laps and finish what he started.

With Nashville representing the first stand-alone Nationwide Series race of the season, Busch will represent Z-Line Designs for the first time in 2008. And just as his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart brought the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture to victory lane at Fontana, Busch expects to take Z-Line Designs to Nashville's victory lane.

And while everyone else seems to be playing "Guitar Hero" these days, Busch expects to be the "Guitar Hero" when the checkered flag drops Saturday at Nashville.

Kyle Busch -- Driver, No. 20 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Nashville

Even though it's an off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, you're still racing at Nashville in the Nationwide Series. Are you going to be bored racing only one car?

"It's going to be a little bit slow for me, but it's going to be nice. We're just going out there and concentrating our efforts on one deal and concentrating on getting the Z-Line Designs car up front. I think we've got a great Nationwide Series program at Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 car has run up front everywhere it's gone so far this season. I think it will be nice to just work with Dave (Rogers, No. 20 crew chief) and Jason (Ratcliff, No. 18 crew chief) and be able to get a good-handling car and try to win the race."

You've had great runs recently in both the No. 18 and No. 20 Nationwide Series cars for Joe Gibbs Racing that ended with some bad luck. Are you itching to get back into a Joe Gibbs Racing-prepared car this weekend to finally close out a win on the Nationwide Series side?

"We've had two second-place finishes and then two tire issues. It's time to try to change some of our luck around and get our car back to the front when it counts. We're still up there in the point standings, but if it weren't for bad luck in the last three races, we would be leading the Nationwide Series points by a bit of a margin, which would be nice. We still have a lot of races left to go, so hopefully we can get up there in the next few races and try to get my first Nationwide Series win."

You've only raced at Nashville a couple of times, including in ARCA early in your career. What do you expect heading into this weekend's race at one of the very 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 race track, so everybody seems to have fun there. Of course, I'd like to bring home another one of those guitars. I've got one from an ARCA race there (2003) and came close twice in the Nationwide Series, but could never close the deal. I'm hoping we can change that with the Z-Line Designs Toyota this weekend."

You talked during the off-season that March and April were going to be the months where you could get back into a routine and start to feel comfortable with your teams in the Nationwide Series and in the Sprint Cup Series. Have you clicked with everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing much earlier than you expected?

"A little bit. I thought it would take a while to get used to things before we would be running up front and trying to get Steve Addington (crew chief, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup Series Toyota) on the same page with me on the Cup side, but also Dave Rogers and Jason Ratcliff on the Nationwide Series side. So far, everything has been great and it's worked out beyond my wildest imagination. I'm proud of how the transition has gone, because we can get to making our race team better even earlier than we originally thought. It just helps us work toward getting better-handling race cars for Saturdays and Sundays."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing