Alabama Getaway HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 2009) -- It's difficult to believe almost 30 years have passed since the Grateful Dead sang about beating the justice system in their hit single "Alabama Getaway." As Kyle Busch, driver of the No....
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 22, 2009) -- It's difficult to believe almost 30 years have passed since the Grateful Dead sang about beating the justice system in their hit single "Alabama Getaway."
As Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Saturday's Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the 23-year-old from Las Vegas has a different kind of "Alabama Getaway" in mind.
That would involve getting out of Alabama still atop the Nationwide Series point standings after another top-10 result in the Z-Line Designs Toyota last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway propelled him into the lead.
Busch, already a two-time winner through the first seven Nationwide Series events of 2009, holds a 47-point advantage over second-place Carl Edwards with arguably the season's most unpredictable event staring him in the face.
While Busch is on pace to match the series-high 10 victories he scored in 30 Nationwide Series races in 2008, he knows full well that arriving at Talladega with the point lead, and leaving Talladega with the point lead, are two entirely different things. The great unknown that is restrictor-plate racing has brought down many a dominant competitor over the years. And, more so than perhaps anywhere else on the NASCAR circuit, good fortune has as much to do with a strong finish at Talladega as does a dominant racecar, stellar pit work and superior driving.
Safe to say, those latter three ingredients have become routine for JGR in cooking up its winning recipe in Nationwide Series competition time and again. And, once again this weekend, Busch and crew chief Jason Ratcliff have every reason to believe they'll have the package to beat at Talladega.
But they also know that, no matter how well things are going at any given moment, there is really nowhere to hide when the seemingly inevitable "big wreck" occurs over the course of Saturday's 312-mile run on the 2.66-mile superspeedway tri-oval. It can happen at any time, and it can happen up front, in the back and mid-pack.
Not to worry, say Busch and Ratcliff, since there's no point in dwelling on those things that are out of your control. What Busch and Ratcliff have proven to have control of is the ability to drive the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota to victory on any given weekend.
They've already done so in dominating fashion this season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. They also brought home a runner-up finish to teammate Joey Logano in the No. 20 JGR Toyota at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway two weekends ago. The victory at Fontana came the week after Busch and the No. 18 team led 14 laps en route to a fourth-place finish in the season's first restrictor-plate race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
They'll dust off the very same chassis for Saturday's Aaron's 312 that Busch drove to a second-place finish in the 2008 Nationwide Series season-opener at Daytona and a fourth-place run this past February at Daytona. Hence, the team's confidence in the equipment.
Busch will have the added motivation of chasing his first career Nationwide Series victory at Talladega after posting top finishes of third in 2006 and fourth in 2004. He finally scored his breakthrough first career Talladega victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition a year ago this weekend.
Without a doubt, Busch's blueprint for this weekend's "Alabama Getaway" includes an Aaron's 312 trophy in-hand and the Nationwide Series point lead in his back pocket.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway
You were involved in a pretty wild wreck at Talladega in the 2007 Nationwide Series race. Is that one of the wildest rides you've taken in a racecar?
"That year, I took a pretty hard shot there, for sure. That was my first time ever being upside-down and flipping. I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But luckily, I made it through without getting hit by another car and didn't get hurt."
You worked so well with your teammate, Tony Stewart, at Daytona in the 2008 Nationwide Series races. But now you have a rookie as a teammate in Joey Logano. How important will it be to work with him at Talladega?
"You have to have the right drafting partners no matter what, whether it's your teammate or not. But I'd sure like to put the Z-Line Designs Toyota in victory lane and hope we can help Joey (Logano) out and he can help us. At the end of the day, the goal is to get a Gibbs car in victory lane. Getting the win for the team is what matters the most. As Joey gets more experience with restrictor-plate racing, he'll be a big asset and should be this weekend."
Jason Ratcliff, crew chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway
What are your overall thoughts headed into Talladega this weekend?
"We got around pretty well with this car at Daytona in February. It's pretty much been sitting in the corner, so we dusted it off and put it back on the setup plate and gave it, hopefully, what we'll need for this weekend. Talladega is a big difference from Daytona. The body needs to be a little slicker. Kyle should do well there. He has a knack for the speedway stuff. He has a knack for every kind of track, really. As a team, we have to shift gears a bit, going from short tracks to speedways. There are so many rules in place that you pretty much show up with everything maxed out and, really, you don't have a lot to work on after that. Our (Toyota) restrictor plate is a little smaller, so there's nothing we can do about that. There's not much we can do with the racecar to overcome that disadvantage. If you've got a good car, and if your fab department has done a nice job, which ours has, and your engine department has done a nice job, which ours has, when you have a car that does get out in front, you'll still have a difficult time passing people. When you take that little bit of horsepower away from us, it's difficult to find the advantage. So we'll just take to the track, stay in the pack, and show our strengths when it matters the most."
Chassis No. 1878: Saturday's Aaron's 312 will be the third Nationwide Series race for Chassis No. 1878. It made its Nationwide Series debut in February 2008 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where Busch started fifth and finished second after leading 47 of 120 laps. Busch drove Chassis No. 1878 in February in the Camping World 300 at Daytona, where he qualified 13th and finished fourth after leading 14 laps.