Texas II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Turning Back the Clock at Texas HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 28, 2008) -- On the weekend most of the civilized world turns the clock back to Standard Time, Kyle Busch and his teammates on the No. 18 Farm Bureau Insurance Toyota Camry...

Turning Back the Clock at Texas

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 28, 2008) -- On the weekend most of the civilized world turns the clock back to Standard Time, Kyle Busch and his teammates on the No. 18 Farm Bureau Insurance Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) can't help but turn the calendar inside their heads back about, oh, six months as they head to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Saturday's O'Reilly Challenge NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Last we saw of Busch and the No. 18 JGR Toyota at Texas, it was April 5. Busch was winless in six previous Nationwide Series starts in 2008 and the No. 18 JGR team had yet to score a win in series history.

My, what a difference a half-year makes. Busch went on to dominate the O'Reilly 300 that day, leading four times for a race-high 126 laps en route to his 12th career Nationwide Series win and the first ever for JGR's No. 18 team.

In the weeks and months since, Busch and the JGR Nationwide Series program has been a quite a tear. As the series returns to the high-banked, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval for this weekend's 300-mile event, the No. 18 team has visited victory lane another eight times since that maiden win on April 5 -- seven of those at the hands of Busch, who across NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series this season, has an amazing 20 victories, and counting.

It might have taken the No. 18 team nearly a decade to achieve that first Nationwide Series win on that Saturday afternoon in Texas, but it took less than a week for Busch to put the team back in victory lane a second time the following Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway.

This weekend, Busch hopes to again win his second race in a row in the No. 18 and the team's 10th on the season as, in their last outing together Oct. 17 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., they thoroughly dominated another Nationwide Series event by leading a race-high 137 laps for their ninth win. In addition to his seven victories in the No. 18 Toyota, Busch has added one win each in JGR's No. 20 Toyota and the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota this season.

While JGR and its stable of drivers Busch, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have become frequent visitors to victory lane this season (JGR's No. 20 team also has nine wins and counting this season), another victory by Busch and the No. 18 this weekend would be a milestone first for sponsor Farm Bureau Insurance, which through its 4,200-member agency sales force provides auto, home and life insurance to customers and fans throughout the southeast. Farm Bureau Insurance has been oh-so-close to victory in its previous six outings on JGR Toyotas in this, its first season on the Nationwide Series tour, having led four of those events for a total of 275 laps and scoring top-five finishes with Busch (second at Daytona in July) and Hamlin (fourth at Richmond in September).

Oh-so-close is better than not being in the hunt at all. But, as Busch and the No. 18 team can attest from their collective exploits this past April 5, there's nothing like that very first victory.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Farm Bureau Insurance NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Texas Motor Speedway

At Texas, what's the mindset between what you need for the Sprint Cup car to handle well as opposed to the Farm Bureau Insurance Nationwide Series Toyota you'll race on Saturday?

"In the Cup car, you want to be able to slow the car down and get it to turn through the corner. The Nationwide Series car doesn't have the power that it had last year, so we'll probably be able to run it wide open at Texas. We'll just be able to carry some more speed through the corner with the Nationwide Series car. The key will be getting both cars to turn through the corner where you aren't too loose, but at the same time, get them to turn during a long run and keep them on the bottom of the race track."

You've been close in the Nationwide Series and Craftsman Truck Series at Texas in the past. But what did it mean to finally win the Nationwide race at Texas back in April?

"It meant so much. I finished second there twice before, but I'd never won there until April. I proved that because I didn't know where victory lane was at. I got lost on the way there. Texas has always been a really hard place to win at. For me, it was extra special to bring the (No.) 18 guys their first Nationwide victory and to bring Toyota to victory lane at Texas for the first time in that series. All of these guys work so, so hard on these things and they prove every week how good they've been this year. To think these 18 guys got their first win here back in April and eight more since then is pretty amazing. We haven't had the luck we wanted with Farm Bureau on the car, but I'm hoping we can change that this weekend. That will be the goal, anyway."

Why was the win in April so big for you? Was it because you got the No. 18 team in victory lane for the first time ever, or more than that?

"The relief is to win there at Texas Motor Speedway was the biggest thing, to be honest with you. I'd gotten second-place finishes in (Craftsman) Trucks and Nationwide cars like three times, and two fourths there in a Cup car. The place is one of those places that used to scare me. Back when I was in the No. 84 (Sprint Cup Series) car (for Hendrick Motorsports), I came here and just tore up my stuff at least two times. Fortunately, now I have a little bit more experience and am that much smarter and have a better feel for taking care of my equipment that I didn't have when I first started."

Chassis No. 1861: This car made its first start of the season in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch at the controls. He led 18 laps before a cut right-front tire and subsequent accident ended his day, resulting in a 31st-place finish. Next, the car attempted to make the race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May, but Denny Hamlin wrecked it during qualifying and the No. 18 team did not participate in the event. Since then, JGR worked on rebuilding the car in preparation for its August run at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where Joey Logano started sixth and brought home a solid seventh-place finish. The final weekend in August, Busch used Chassis No. 1861 to dominate the Camping World RV Service 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as he led three times for a race-high 144 laps en route to his seventh Nationwide Series victory of the season. And in September, Hamlin drove this car at Kansas Speedway, where he started 19th and won the race after leading a race-high 99 laps. Chassis No. 1861 also ran three times last season, with its first race coming at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with former JGR driver Brad Coleman finishing a career-best second. The car returned to action in August at Michigan, where Coleman finished 15th. And finally, Tony Stewart drove this car to a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November after leading a race-high 114 laps. Despite Stewart's dominance that day, contact midway through the race with lapped traffic hurt the car's aerodynamics.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Brad Coleman , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch