Monster of a weekend ahead at Dover for 'Rowdy' Busch?
MAY 28, 2014 1:30p ET
Jimmie Johnson, the Sprint Cup Series' all-time Dover wins leader with eight victories, undoubtedly enters Sunday's FedEx 400 at The Monster Mile as the prohibitive favorite.
After all, Johnson won last fall at the high-banked concrete oval and comes to Dover fresh off his first victory of the season in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Don't expect the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion to run completely roughshod over the competition this weekend, however.
At least not if Kyle Busch has anything to do with it.
Busch, who boasts multiple wins at Dover in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, is almost certainly the biggest threat to knock Johnson and the No. 48 team off their proverbial Dover throne when the green flag waves on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET on FOX).
Along with boasting an impressive resume at Dover, specifically, Busch is also one of NASCAR's most formidable drivers on concrete in general. Between Dover and Bristol Motor Speedway -- the Sprint Cup Series' lone concrete tracks -- Busch has been to Victory Lane a whopping 23 times in races among NASCAR's top three series.
It seems that whenever concrete is involved, Busch suddenly becomes a conqueror. And he hopes Sunday's race in Delaware is no different.
"It's definitely a fast racetrack," Busch said of the 1-mile facility. "It's a fun racetrack, too. It makes it interesting when you get to traffic, when you have to pass guys, when you're kind of falling down into the hole and jumping back up out of the hole to the straightaways. It's a good place to race.
"It's a competitive racetrack and, when the rubber gets laid down, it definitely changes the whole atmosphere and the whole way you run around that place."
Busch has triumphed in the Sprint Cup Series at Dover on two occasions -- the spring of 2008 and the spring of 2010 -- and has finished outside the top 10 just once here in his last eight starts. In 18 Sprint Cup starts at The Monster Mile, the driver nicknamed "Rowdy" has led an impressive 930 laps while recording an average finish of 12.8 skewed by three DNFs.
"Dover, being a concrete track, is challenging," said Busch, who owns three Nationwide Series trophies and two Truck Series trophies to go along with his two Sprint Cup trophies at Dover.
"They are all a challenge, but Dover is especially so, just because of the way you have to run around that place. The way tires sometimes wear out. The way the rubber gets put down there. You've got to be fast through the corner. Two-thirds of your lap time is through the turn rather than down the straightaway, so you definitely have to make sure you have a good-handling race car -- one that's good in the beginning of the run on low air pressures and one that's good at the end of the run on high air pressures, and even through traffic, too.
"Some of the most challenging times are when you're trying to get through traffic with guys. We had good races there the last couple of years but haven't been able to finish them off, so I hope we can keep the momentum going there again this weekend and get a win with our M&M's Peanut Butter Camry."
Busch, who sits third in the Sprint Cup standings on the strength of one win and six top-10 finishes in the season's first dozen races, is chasing a significant milestone this weekend. The Las Vegas native has led 930 laps in his Sprint Cup career at Dover, with 482 of those laps coming in his last four Sprint Cup starts here.
With 9,972 laps led in total over his Sprint Cup career, this could be the weekend when the Joe Gibbs Racing driver eclipses the 10,000-laps-led mark, which would make him only the 15th driver to reach the milestone.
"It's pretty neat any time we're able to set records, break records -- however you want to say it," said Busch, 29. "It's always fun. It just means you're accomplishing things in the sport, various things in the sport. There are a lot of things I want to accomplish, still, that I haven't.
"Whatever things come along that way, that we're able to accomplish, is awesome, it's fun, it's great. It means you are a namesake in the sport and that hopefully things continue to go down that path. Whether it stops at 10,000 or not, I doubt it will, so hopefully we just keep going."
But as much as Busch would like to join the 10,000 laps-led club on Sunday, his primary concern is leading the final lap, which would make him only the third repeat winner of 2014 and guarantee him a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"If you lead 300 whatever laps and don't win like we did at Dover in 2012, or at Darlington last year, it's a lost race," Busch said. "It's gone. It means nothing. It is what it is. You hate it and, on the flip side, if you can only lead one lap and lead the last one and win any race, I'd have that happen every single week.
"It's all about taking home the trophy and the checkered flag; it's not necessarily about how many laps you lead. When you lead all those laps, it shows that you're good, your team's good, your car is good, so the wins will come with it, eventually."