HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – At just 27 years of age, it’s difficult to believe Kyle Busch is considered by many to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran.
But as the Sprint Cup competitors head to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth this Saturday night for the NRA 500, the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is showing veteran-like numbers to prove it, especially since the Texas start will be his 300th in NASCAR’s top series.
Along with his number of starts, the number in the career wins column also serves to belie Busch’s age. His 25th Sprint Cup win three weekends ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. – in Interstate Batteries colors, no less – ties him with JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, along with Jim Paschal and Joe Weatherly, for 24th in all-time Sprint Cup victories.
Also with the Fontana win, Busch became just the third driver to score 25 victories in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series (25 Sprint Cup, 54 Nationwide). Mark Martin (40 Sprint Cup, 49 Nationwide) and Kenseth (25 Sprint Cup, 26 Nationwide) are the only other drivers to do so. Interestingly enough, Kenseth became the second driver to do so with his win three weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Busch’s 299 previous starts, he’s also has notched an impressive 97 top-five finishes and 144 top-10s. Not too shabby for just 300 career starts.
But despite all of those landmark finishes, Busch no doubt has his sights set on yet another elusive milestone Saturday night – a Sprint Cup win at Texas, situated right in the backyard of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries.
Interstate Batteries dealers and distributors across the country know if there’s anyone who can finally get that long-awaited Sprint Cup win in the Lone Star State, its Busch.
He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Nationwide Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to April 2010, and has come close to the elusive first Sprint Cup win in recent years there as he has posted five top-fives and six top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval, which include a tie for his career best of third there last November.
The Interstate Batteries driver also arrives in Texas fresh off his fourth top-five finish in a row Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a finish that vaulted him to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.
So, as Busch heads to Texas for his 300th Sprint Cup start, he’ll hope to use that nice, round numeral to grab a number one, which would be the first win at the “Great American Speedway” for himself and hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What do you think about making your 300th start at Texas? “I think it’s Junior’s (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) 600th soon, so I’m only halfway there for him and for what he’s been able to do here. It’s cool and all – I just always think the results are never kind of where you want them to be. You always want to win more and you always want a top-five more or a top-10 more or whatever. To be in 300 races, I think that’s pretty cool and it just shows that I’ve been here for a while. Yet there are still a lot more races to run and a lot more time for me to be here. Just continue on and press forward and hopefully we can be talking about 600 one day.”
Do you approach Texas differently than other mile-and-a-half racetracks? “Texas is a really fast mile-and-a-half racetrack. Charlotte has been fast the last few years and Texas has always kind of been that way. The asphalt is getting a little bit older but, for as old as the asphalt is, it’s still really fast for a few laps and it’s still kind of a pain, sometimes, because it is so aero-dependent that when you do run the bottom it’s hard to pass. You’ve got to be able to move around a little bit and run the middle, run the top and show some ability to go all over the racetrack. We’re getting closer each and every time, it feels like. Sometimes not so much – you kind of go forward and then you go backward and then you kind of come back forward some. Hopefully, Texas will be good to us this time around, also, and we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry like at Fontana.”
How fast of a racetrack is Texas Motor Speedway? “It is a fast racetrack. Texas was really hard for me at the beginning with the Cup cars for some reason. I took to it right off the bat in the Nationwide stuff. We’ve kind of correlated some of that information back and forth and, having the cars from Jason Ratcliff (former Nationwide Series crew chief and current crew chief of the No. 20 Sprint Cup team for JGR) and from Dave Rogers (Busch’s Sprint Cup crew chief) being as good as they’ve been, we’ve been really fast there. And now that Jason is on the Cup side with Matt (Kenseth), I’m hoping they can bring back a little of that magic that helped us win five in a row there in the Nationwide car. 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, they kind of fall off real quickly. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out because the 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.”
What would a Sprint Cup win at Texas mean to you? “That’s something we want to do – I want to do – before I’m done. Hopefully, I have a long time before I get there. It would be nice to win there at Texas. It would mean a lot to see Norm’s (Miller) face in victory lane if we could pull it off. It meant a lot to get him to victory lane in the Truck Series there, but to win a Sprint Cup race there for him would be a huge deal.”
You’ve had success at Texas Motor Speedway, recently. Are you getting more comfortable there each time you go back? “It used to not be so much. I had some wild races there early on in my career and it wasn’t one of my favorite places, for whatever reason. Things have gone well, recently. Obviously, the Nationwide Series wins the last several years and getting the win in the Truck Series the last couple of years have been real confidence-boosters there. I’ve sort of learned how to drive it a little bit better and I know what I need in my racecar to make it easier. The cars that JGR has given me since I joined the team have also been a confidence-booster there. I can’t seem to get that win in Cup that’s eluded me, even though we’ve been close. So, hopefully, that’s something we can change this weekend.”