No surprise: Busch will again be race favorite

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 15, 2012 at 10:53 PM

You simply can’t ignore his track record.

With four wins in the past six races at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch is again the odds-on favorite to win Sunday’s Food City 500.

Busch captured his first Bristol win in March 2007 with the debut of NASCAR’s new generation race car, and has dominated the high banks since. Counting Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events, he has 12 wins overall at Bristol.

He won three times at Bristol last season, sweeping the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in March, and edging teammate Joey Logano to the finish line in last August’s Nationwide race.

“Ever since I got through my rookie year, I’ve just taken a liking to the place,” said the driver of the No. 18 Toyota. “Of course, I’ve been able to get some help from my brother (Kurt). But, when they changed the track to this current surface, I just really took to it right away. I really liked it and I’ve been fast there, but also I’ve had great race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s just a fun race track no matter what series I’m running there.”

Busch’s best memory is an obvious choice with a weekend sweep in August 2010 when he became the first driver in NASCAR history to win Truck Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in the same weekend.

He added the aforementioned weekend sweep last March, but wasn’t able to carry the momentum into the August Cup race where he qualified 23rd and finished 14th into the IRWIN Tools Night Race.

“We kind of upset the apple cart last fall – we just didn’t have a very good weekend there,” he said. “With the Truck race, we crashed out. The Nationwide race – I barely beat Joey, which was good – we won. Then the Cup race, we just made so many changes to the car based on how the Nationwide car ran that it threw us for a loop.”

Despite the disappointing run and an aggravating weekend this past weekend at Las Vegas, where he finished 23rd in his hometown race, the 26-year-old driver is still looking forward to Bristol.

“It’s always fun. I missed a little bit of the stuff last fall, just not having the car set up right and trying too many different things that we’re not quite used to,” he said. “We ventured from the path a little bit and it seems like, when you can get a good setup somewhere, you ought to stick with it and try to just fine-tune on it a little bit instead of saying, ‘This isn’t working this time or it’s not working on this tire.’ The track,

most of the time, will influence how your setup should be, not the tire.”

Even for someone as accomplished as Busch, a 23-time winner in the Cup Series, Bristol’s high banks present some tough challenges. At the end of the day, he explained the .533-mile oval is truly one of those places described as a driver’s track.

“I think the most challenging aspect of Bristol is just how difficult it is to transition through from the straightaways to the corners, back to the straightaways and have your car set up in order to do all that,” he said. “Sometimes you can be really loose getting in, or you can be really tight in the middle – you just seem to never be able to get a good-flowing car that works well there. Drivers have to do a lot of manipulation with the race track, with their car to try to make the best of it.”

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