Busch looks primed to break through
Kyle Busch is balancing the challenges of racer and owner.
Earlier this week, Busch accompanied Kyle Busch Motorsports’ latest recruit — Formula One champ Kimi Raikkonen — at a truck test at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia. On Thursday, it was back to business as a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch, who assumed the points lead last week at Martinsville, said that while it is still early in the season, he is “excited” about his prospects.
“We feel like it’s a great opportunity to be up front and having some good results,” Busch said. “Unfortunately, our engine failure at Las Vegas kind of set us back a little bit.
“We’ve been able to rebound nicely and get back up to the points lead. I feel good with where we’re at, I feel really good with where the cars are at — I think that’s the most important thing. If we can keep building upon this momentum and our success of recent, then we can keep that going all year, hopefully.”
Busch’s 38th-place finish at Vegas was certainly a bump in the road, but since then, he has rallied with a win at Bristol and two finishes of third at California and Martinsville, and has led more than 150 laps per race in the past three events (including the most laps in the last two).
Yet, Busch has never won at Texas (one of eight on the current circuit where he is winless in Sprint). However, Busch has enjoyed tremendous success in both the Nationwide and Truck Series in Ford Worth. He has five NNS victories and two in trucks. Busch looked for the sweep at Texas in the fall of 2009 and led 232 laps in the Cup race before running out of gas and finishing 11th.
Not surprisingly, Busch said, “It would be nice to win here at Texas.”
“It is a fast race track,” Busch said. “Texas was really hard for me at the beginning with the Cup cars for some reason. I took to it right off the back in the Nationwide stuff. We’ve kind of correlated some of that information back and forth and having the cars from Jason Ratcliff (NNS crew chief) and from Dave Rogers (NSCS crew chief) being as good as they’ve been, we’ve been really fast here.
“It’s a fun place. It’s really challenging because of the flatness of the corners, getting into the corners and then they’re so banked through the turns and then the exits of the corners kind of fall off real quick. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out because of lateral grip seems to go away so fast on the exit of the turns, you kind of want to be straight by that point. It’s an interesting facility. Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta all might look exactly the same, but they drive nothing alike. It keeps you on your toes.”
Given Busch’s past success in the NASCAR’s feeder series — particularly under the lights — Texas Motor Speedway hosting the first 2011 Saturday night Sprint Cup event could play right into Busch’s hands.
“A lot of guys have been really good here in the past during the daylight because of the hot, slick race track having a better car setup,” Busch said. “This time around it’s about night time and getting the most speed out of your car and the most grip out of your car. We’ll see how it all goes with everybody, but we like our chances.”
Martin looking for magic
Mark Martin wants that first single-digit finish of the season.
Martin is currently 10th in the point standings and has 10th-place finishes bookending the first six races of the season.
But Martin, who won the 1998 Texas 500, could make a statement here this weekend. He’s one of only four racers in the Sprint Cup Series who has competed in every race on the 1.5-miler.
“I think of this place as Texas — it has its own personality,” Martin said. “It is fast and it’s flat for as fast as it is. It doesn’t have a lot of banking in relation to the speed that you’re able to make around it.
“It’s amazing. It’s a great place to race. The location as well as the facility. They put a lot of money into this place and I think it represents our sport well.”
Martin has an average finish of 12.4 at Texas Motor Speedway. He was 26th in the first practice with a lap of 183.125 mph.
50 — Laps David Ragan ran before posting the top speed of 185.816 mph in first practice
20 — Races run at Texas Motor Speedway since the inaugural event in 1997
3 — Most wins by a Cup driver — Carl Edwards — at Texas
Michael Waltrip will sport an Auburn University paint scheme next week at Talladega Superspeedway to commemorate the 2011 NCAA Football Champions.
“I’ll be the only person in Talladega that gets booed more than Kyle Busch,” Waltrip said.