Talladega: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Polishing Up the Resume HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (April 22, 2008) -- Like many other folks in their early 20s, Kyle Busch is working on building his resume. But unlike those who might be finishing up their college degree and looking to...

Polishing Up the Resume

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (April 22, 2008) -- Like many other folks in their early 20s, Kyle Busch is working on building his resume.

But unlike those who might be finishing up their college degree and looking to land their first job, Busch already has a job. A great job. In fact, he has already done plenty to impress prospective employers given that several race teams competed for his services late last season before Busch decided to sign with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).

The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota for JGR heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Saturday's Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on a red-hot streak, and he continues to show why so many teams were interested in signing him.

The most recent addition to his racing resume came via Sunday's victory in the Corona Mexico 200 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City. Busch's third consecutive Nationwide Series win follows up his victories at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway the previous two weeks. The win also marked the first time Busch has won three in a row in any of NASCAR's top three series, and it was his first-ever win on a road course in NASCAR competition.

The Las Vegas native now leads six Nationwide Series loop data statistical categories, including Driver Rating, Fastest Drivers Late in a Run, Fastest Laps Run, Fastest Green Flag Speed and Total Miles Led. In addition to the loop data statistics, Busch's 22 laps led in Mexico City gives him an astounding 626 laps led out of the 1,548 laps possible (40.4 percent) over the first nine races on the 35-race Nationwide Series schedule.

In addition to his impressive numbers, Busch, along with his JGR teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, have dominated the Nationwide Series this year by ringing up five wins, three poles and leading 934 of the 1,548 laps possible (60.3 percent).

While Sunday's win generated a couple of items to add to his growing resume, this weekend's trek to Alabama brings yet another opportunity for Busch to turn around his fortunes at a track that has dealt him plenty of bad luck. In his last Nationwide Series outing at the 2.66-mile oval in April 2007, Busch had his day cut short when he flipped wildly down the backstretch just 26 laps into the 120-lap race. While he was not injured, the accident added to his run of tough luck at Talladega, as he has two DNFs (Did Not Finish) in four career Nationwide Series starts at the restrictor-plate venue.

The good news for Busch this weekend is that he's been able to turn his luck around on two tracks that used to give him fits -- Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas. This season, Busch won for the first time at both tracks. He brought home a victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta in early March, and followed that up less than a month later by winning the Nationwide Series race at Texas.

In addition to breaking through for his first win at Talladega, Busch also looks to bring home a win in his second start for sponsor Z-Line Designs, the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture. In his first start for the company in March at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, Busch put the Z-Line Designs car on the pole and dominated the first half of the race, leading 125 laps before an off-course excursion ended his bid for victory.

If the recent trend continues, Busch just might be making a "Z-Line" to victory lane for the fourth consecutive race.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Talladega

Racing at Talladega has changed a lot since they repaved the track in the summer of 2006. Is luck the key to surviving at Talladega?

"We've never really had great luck at Talladega, and I'm hoping we can change that this weekend in the Z-Line Designs Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. It's my worst race track as far as catching a break. I was third there one time in a Nationwide Series race and that's about it. So far this year, I've been able to change my luck at Atlanta and Texas -- tracks that I've traditionally had trouble at -- so I'm hoping we can turn our luck around at Talladega. The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. In that race, you pretty much stay around the bottom since there is a lot of grip there and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it's hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that's when it starts to get crazy."

You were involved in a pretty wild wreck there last spring. Is that one of the wildest rides you've taken in a race car?

"Last 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 first restrictor-plate Nationwide Series race this year. Are you hoping to hook up with Tony for a similar result at Talladega?

"It doesn't matter who wins as long as we are on the same team, but I'd sure like to put the Z-Line Designs Toyota in victory lane. 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. We worked well together at Daytona. Anytime you have two cars out there with guys who get along as well as Tony and I do, then we are going to be tough for other teams to run against.

Anything we can do to get JGR a win will be great for everyone, whether it's Tony or I who end up in victory lane."

You ran so well early in the season, but just couldn't finish those strong runs off with a win. Have you been more patient over the past three races than you were earlier in the season?

"A little bit. I think there's been some more patience in these three races, which has obviously paid off. In Nashville, I was leading the whole thing and just wanted to stay up front, so I didn't have to pass Clint Bowyer further into the run, but I ended up screwing up and spinning myself out there. Fortunately, in these three races, we've been pretty much mistake-free. The guys on pit road have been awesome and flawless each week. Again, in Mexico, they were great in getting us out and I was able to build up a gap on pit stops even if a caution was thrown. All in all, it's just being smarter, more patient, smooth and having a good car. Dave Rogers (No. 20 crew chief), Jason Ratcliff (No. 18 crew chief) and all the guys on both Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series teams are on top of their game right now and I've been up on top of the wheel. Put those two things together, and it's hard to beat."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing