HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Kyle Busch’s 29 victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have come at 17 of its 23 different racetracks. Those 29 wins on tracks of virtually every shape and size are certainly proof of the Las Vegas native’s versatility and fierce appetite for checkered flags.
Always looking for more, the driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is hungry to add a place not currently on his Sprint Cup win list – Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the site of Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
Busch would like nothing more than to win at Indy. It’s a race he and most of his fellow competitors consider part of Sprint Cup’s “Big Four,” an elite list that also includes the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
There are certainly reasons for optimism this year for Busch and the SNICKERS team as they hope to capture another crown jewel at Indianapolis, much as he did with his 2008 win at Darlington. And, to further help the cause, Busch spent two days in a Goodyear tire test session at Indy last month that they hope generated useful information to be applied to what will hopefully be a winning setup for Sunday afternoon’s 400-mile race.
Coming out of the last off weekend of the 2014 season and with just eight races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins, Busch and the SNICKERS team carry plenty of momentum into Indianapolis after runner-up finishes in two of the last three Sprint Cup races. A strong run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon two weekends ago showed that JGR as a whole is starting to make strides in hopes of becoming a major player when NASCAR’s version of the playoffs begin in September.
So, earning the right to kiss Indy’s famed “Yard of Bricks” come Sunday afternoon – a tradition for winning drivers and their team at the century-old speedway – would shoot straight to the top of Busch’s ever-growing list of accomplishments, for certain. There’s a hunger that Busch and the SNICKERS team hope to satisfy by getting to the checkered flag first at historic Indianapolis this weekend.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it mean to you to race at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is a really cool place. It’s got a lot of history. I know the history is not all NASCAR – a lot of it is IndyCar – but it’s one of America’s oldest speedways. The prestige of winning there is a big deal. It’s a unique place to race. If you are back in traffic, it’s a little more frustrating because it can be hard to pass there. But, if you have a fast racecar, being able to cut the middle and get down the long, fast straightaways is important there. We’ve run well there the past couple of times. We haven’t qualified well, though, and I think we need to focus on qualifying when we get there and, if we can do that, we will be a heck of a lot better off for the race with our SNICKERS Camry.”
How close are you to winning at Indy?
“Two years ago, I’d say we were pretty close to winning there. We got out front and ran second, third or fourth much of the day. Last year, not so much. We ran around 10th or 12th all day. We need to pick our game back up there. We were just there for a tire test last month and we felt like we learned some things. Looking forward to getting back there and seeing what we can do.”
What does it take to be successful at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is probably one of the trickiest places we go to on the schedule – Pocono being one, Darlington being one, Indy being another. It’s so hard to find a particular line that really, really works for you, or really works for your car, because the groove is so narrow. It’s plenty wide for one or one-and-a-half cars but, the line you run around there, you vary 6 inches and it feels so different. You really have to be particular in hitting your marks and getting your car set up. The way it changes throughout the weekend, going from practice, when there’s not much rubber on the racetrack, and then to the race, with a lot of rubber on the racetrack – the trajectory of the corners changes. How wide do you enter the corner? How long do you stay out? How sharp do you turn down? Indy’s definitely a particular racetrack and it’s exciting for us all to go there, especially with the history there and the prestige of winning that event. I’d love nothing more than to win there on Sunday with my SNICKERS Camry.”
How do you feel about the superspeedway program heading into Indianapolis this weekend?
"Well, it’s sort of a short‑track thing, as well. You have to have a short‑track setup but with a superspeedway body, essentially. You’ve got to carry a lot of speed down the straightaways, but you also have to have a big horsepower motor and get down the straightaways quick. At the Goodyear tire test, we weren’t as fast as we wanted to be. But, we were better than other cars that were at the test, so we’ve got something to look forward to, yet know that, hopefully, we can zone in on where some more speed is at.”
Where does Indy rank on the list of prestigious wins in this series?
“It’s number two. It’s right there. Daytona is one, Indy is two. They’re both pretty close. Indy is an important racetrack for a lot of people. The history of that place, it’s all been Indy cars. But it’s still one of the first big superspeedways in America dating back to the early 1900s. There’s a lot there that everyone always wants to win.”
Do you remember when you first heard the words Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, Brickyard 400?
“Probably the first time I knew of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Indy 500, was back in the ’80s – probably ’89, maybe even 1990. Of course, the first time I knew of the Brickyard 400 was ’94, being a big Jeff Gordon fan and following him growing up in Las Vegas. When he came into the sport a few years earlier and won the Coca-Cola 600 and carried that into the Brickyard 400, and then won that race right off the bat, that was quite an accomplishment, for sure.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits?
“It’s very tight down the straightaways. You roll through (turns) one and two and there are people on the inside, there are people on the outside, there are people in the grass, just sitting along the back straightaway on the inside. You’ve got the golf course there, and fans sitting on the hills underneath the trees. You start back up into turn three, with the grandstands going around (turns) three and four, and then down the frontstretch and, again, there are two tunnels. There’s a tunnel at the (turns) one and two side, and on the (turns) three and four side. There’s a center road that runs all the way through and then, coming down the frontstretch again, looking on both sides of you, you’ve got the pit road, which is really narrow and really tight, and the grandstands on the inside and the outside. So, you’re going down a ‘V’ of just people – a sea of people. Coming to the Pagoda and the media center, the way it is, and of course the scoring pylon being as tall as it is, you come down there and, if you’re leading the race, sometimes you can’t see that high, so you’re kind of wondering who is second and third, or who is behind you. It stinks when you’re running in the back because you can see yourself (car number) right there.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine