NASCAR’s Four-Wide Nationals
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Each spring, zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina hosts a NHRA drag racing event called the “Four-Wide Nationals,” during which four cars barrel down the quarter-mile drag strip at the same time.
Just across the street sits the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval, which will likely see its share of four-wide racing in Saturday night’s $1 million-to-win non-points Sprint All-Star Race.
With that in mind, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor most likely to take it four-wide is none other than Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Whether the race counts in the standings or not, Busch is not afraid to drive it in deep and four-wide. Exhibit A was three races ago at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway when, with less than 10 laps to go, Busch on several occasions went four-wide, which is almost unheard of at the .75-mile short track, to vault himself from 16th place to a final finishing position of third.
Non-points races seem to be tailor-made for Kyle Busch, as well. Exhibit B: the first non-points race of this season – the race now called the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February 2012.
Busch wound up sideways in the draft not just once, but twice. Busch showed incredible car control on both occasions by saving his racecar as it got sideways and appeared to be headed for certain wrecks. Twice, he kept the M&M’s Camry off the wall and saved it from major damage. Busch followed those incredible saves by passing three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart coming to the finish line on the final lap to claim his first career victory in the non-points Shootout. Busch won by .013 of a second, the closest finish in event history.
Considering he intervened so adeptly when his racecar twice seemed destined for the back of a wrecker and took the checkers at Daytona instead, Busch will undoubtedly be one to watch again as the series heads into the second non-points event of the season Saturday night at Charlotte.
The Las Vegas native first left his non-points-race mark on the 2009 edition of the Sprint All-Star Race. NASCAR first instituted short-track-style, double-file restarts for just the All-Star Race that year. After Busch pulled off several bold moves that helped inject plenty of excitement into the race, it prompted NASCAR to go ahead and institute the double-file restart rule permanently for its top three series beginning at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just three weeks later.
Busch didn’t earn his spot in the All-Star Race on his ability to save a racecar, or for his four wide attempts alone. He locked in his spot for this year’s All-Star event – comprised primarily of 2013 and 2014 Sprint Cup race winners, plus past All-Star Race winners and past series champions – via his four series wins in 2013 and his one win in NASCAR’s top series thus far in 2014, which came in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
The Las Vegas native not only has earned the title of All-Star, he’s become one of the dominant forces in the elite Sprint Cup Series. His win at Fontana was the 29th of his Sprint Cup career, and Busch now has 131 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. With the aforementioned win at Fontana, Busch sits alone in 23rd place on the all-time Sprint Cup win list.
Busch was regarded as a potential star when he entered the Sprint Cup ranks full-time in 2005 as a raw 18-year-old, but he’s quickly transformed that star potential into bonafide All-Star status since joining JGR at the beginning of 2008.
As a competitor who has tried to focus on racing smart during points-paying events week in and week out, Busch views Saturday’s non-points-paying All-Star Race as his annual opportunity to throw patience out the window at his own discretion. So if there is four-wide racing Saturday night at Charlotte, chances are the colorful M&M’s Toyota will be right in the middle of the action.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do you feel able to race other drivers differently this weekend?
“Yes and no. That guy is still going to be mad at you or you’re still going to be mad at that guy. It doesn’t really matter what happens or what the scenario is. It is a race and you do want to win it. For this event, at least, it doesn’t have as much ramifications on it, but you still want to have the opportunity to make it to the final segment, of course, and to be able to run hard and go after that million bucks.”
What are your expectations for the All-Star Race?
“I’m looking forward to it. This is always a pretty cool race and has good atmosphere around it. The crowd gets jacked up, and of course there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can. You get some practice runs in, get some good practice in and make sure your car feels good to you. And you try to work on your speed, of course, as best you can. Qualifying – that’s certainly going to be interesting again this year. I think, all in all, it’s a fun event. We always enjoy coming to Charlotte and getting these two weeks – with the All-Star race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 with the longest event. Kind of two different ends of the spectrum at Charlotte and we’re hoping to finally get a win in the Sprint Cup car with our M&M’s Camry at least once over the next two weekends there.”
What driving style does it take to succeed in the All-Star race?
“I think just being aggressive and knowing when to be aggressive and how to be aggressive is the biggest thing. It’s a race where you have to get to the front and you have to get out there and get yourself, more importantly, in clean air in order to keep yourself out front and on your own.”
What does it mean to be a part of the All-Star Race in this sport?
“It matters, especially with who your fellow competitors are. For us, being an all-star and being in the All-Star Race is one of the most fun things we get to do each year. I’d say the Sprint Unlimited is another one of those and, with the All-Star Race, they are certainly two fun races where we get a chance to go after just a win and bring home the checkered or the wrecker. It’s an exciting night and there’s a lot of energy there. Charlotte does a great job. I think it’s an awesome venue for that race. It gives you the opportunity to run, whether it’s a 40-lap segment, 25-lap segment, 10-lap segment – it gives you the opportunity to run that many qualifying laps in a row. That’s all you’re doing – you’re giving it all you’ve got every single lap. You’re definitely up on top of the wheel and your guys do the best they can to give you a good car and to make it as lightweight as possible and throw away the air conditioning unit and keep all the front fans away from you – no radiator fan. All that stuff, just try to lighten that baby up and make it fast.”
What drivers do you think are best suited for the All-Star Race?
“You look at the guys who are really good who qualify well. I think qualifying well can always lend itself to racing the All-Star Race well because you’re running however many laps that segment is. You’re running that many qualifying laps in a row. You’re just trying to get the most you can out of your car there. It’s sometimes hard to pass because the guy in front of you is trying to get the most out of his car and so are you, so you just can’t get there.”
- Jonathan Paluga
Director of Marketing & Sales
Armor All & STP Brands