The woman behind Kyle Busch’s success

It was just a casual encounter at the time.

A student at Purdue University, Samantha Sarcinella was working at the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when she ran into Kyle Busch.

At the time, Sarcinella was unschooled in NASCAR racing and, therefore, unaware of Busch’s chosen profession. They just happened to meet.

“(We) kind of just crossed paths and exchanged numbers and the rest is history,” Sarcinella said.

That history has involved a quick schooling in the NASCAR life, an awareness of the ins and outs of the business side of the sport — and a looming wedding.

A quick study, Sarcinella has worked not only to further her education, but to get an ever-increasing grasp on what it is that Busch does for a living. She’s become involved in his new Kyle Busch Motorsports NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team as well as aspects of his merchandising.

Over time, she’s become entrenched in the sport that once was a mystery to her.

Since meeting Busch, Sarcinella has graduated from Purdue and is taking online courses through Austin Peay University to get her masters in industrial/organizational psychology. She says that she enjoys doing leadership coaching. She’s only two classes and a research paper away from attaining her degree, but she took this semester off.

She simply had too much to do in her life this fall and winter. She and Kyle Busch hosted the grand opening for KBM — and she’s had that New Year’s Eve wedding to plan.

In that area, Busch has joked all along that she’s in charge.

“Samantha’s handling the wedding, so that’s her, her mom and her friends, so they can have all they want,” he said shortly after announcing their engagement. “Just tell me where I’ve got to be, when I’ve got to be there, and I’ll be there.”

During Champions Week in Las Vegas, Busch was getting ready to jump in on the final stage of preparations.

“So far, Samantha’s done a great job, of course, she’s been the lead on that, so I’ve been following her,” he said. “Now that the season’s over and things might slow down and cool off a little, I can kind of get involved and see what she’s got and see what to expect New Year’s Eve.”

And what does he think he’ll be doing?

“I’m probably just picking carpets and chandeliers, I don’t know,” Busch said with a laugh.

He and Sarcinella have been busy planning more than the wedding this year.

Busch debuted as an owner in the Trucks series this season, starting the season with grand plans for two teams and hopes for a third before sponsorship woes forced him to cut back on those a little. He and Sarcinella worked diligently to get the shop ready while Busch also was competing, often in all three series, on most weekends leading up to the event.

“It was amazing,” Sarcinella said. “Kyle always does the outside and architecture, just like the motor home, he did the whole outside and I did the inside. He was like, ‘Just make it black, white, real manly, chrome.’ And so I did the interior on it and it looks amazing, turned out really well. There’s still a lot to be done upstairs, but downstairs is great.

“I had his Late Model boys there until 8 o’clock at night, like, up on tables hanging stuff. Between the time we got in and the time we got it open, because we wanted to launch it for the Charlotte race weekend for all the fans; we had like three weeks left and people were saying, ‘There’s no way you’re going to open,’ and we were like, ‘We’ve got it, we got it.’ And it turned out great.”

Sarcinella said that fans were camping out at the shop the night before, waiting for a first glimpse into the operation, and about 500 showed up for the event.

“I was in the shop this week and there’s still, every hour you get like 10 fans or so come in and check things out,” Sarcinella said. “It turned out really well and all the fans really liked it, so we were super happy with that.”

Busch was pleased with it as well.

“It’s a neat experience, and it’s something that Samantha has really put a lot of heart into and myself,” Busch said. “It means a lot to all of us that the place was a success today, so hopefully it continues to be a success in the future.”

Sarcinella is also putting her touch on Busch’s retail line, trying to make his gear for women have a bit more of a feminine touch.

She enjoys getting to try new things, and the chance to help out.

“I work with some designers and especially help with the women’s line, try to take it a little less from like the in-your-face numbers and trucks and all that, make it a little more like everyday wear. . . . I like to help design stuff that’s a little more fashion forward,” she says.

And then there’s the aspect of working with Busch’s program that seems closest to her heart — the work with the Kyle Busch Foundation. The foundation assists organizations that foster a “safe environment for children to live, learn and challenge themselves as well as seeing that day-to-day needs are met.”

This year, for the first time, the group auctioned Busch’s Toyota Tundra as well as a trip to the Phoenix race with the driver. Busch has hosted children at dinners near tracks and provided tickets to races. Sarcinella says they are making plans for 2011 to continue supporting as important cause.

“You get like 20 little sisters all at the same time. . . . They’re great kids,” she says.

Along the way, she’s also been studying up on NASCAR.

Sarcinella doesn’t just sit and watch Busch race and move on. She wants to understand more about what he does — and more about NASCAR.

In the beginning, she knew nothing about the sport, the cars or even the personalities within it.

“I didn’t know anything about NASCAR. I didn’t know who Kyle was, I didn’t know anything about it,” she said. “Everybody always picked on me. I asked probably the silliest questions. 

“Somebody bought me that ‘NASCAR for Dummies’ book. I didn’t know anything. Anything. Now I get it. . . . I enjoy it so much more now.”

Now, when he’s not racing, Busch is explaining the sport to her as well. After all, NASCAR will be part of her life for years to come.

“I’m learning and I like it,” she said. “Now I feel like I know what I’m talking about.”