Kyle Busch’s 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories have come at 16 different racetracks of virtually every shape and size – living proof of the talented 27-year-old’s versatility and fierce appetite for checkered flags.
Always looking for more, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing can’t help but think about the voids on his racing resume, one of which he would most certainly love to fill this weekend.
On Sunday, he’ll have his sights set on one of NASCAR’s “Crown Jewel” events when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard – aka the Brickyard 400.
Busch would like nothing more than to add to his win list a race he and his fellow competitors consider part of Sprint Cup’s “Big Three” – the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
In the process, Busch will hope to snap out of a bad-luck streak that has hindered his team the last seven races, where several great runs have been thwarted by a combination of mechanical issues and other unfortunate circumstances. Still, Busch sits in the second wild-card spot as the highest driver in the standings with one win. Another win would certainly bolster his chances as the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set seven races from now.
So, earning the right to kiss the “Yard of Bricks” come Sunday afternoon – the winning driver and team’s tradition at Indianapolis –would shoot straight to the top of Busch’s growing list of accomplishments, for certain, but also could mean much more as the season reaches NASCAR’s playoffs in September.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
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 M&M’s Camry. It would be something cool. Been close a couple times, but I’d like to get a little closer.”
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.”
How do you approach the races leading up to the Chase?
“The races leading up to the Chase – you just have to approach them the way you have the other races all season, already. You go there and try to do the best job you can, you want to win that weekend, so you work as hard as you can all through practice trying to figure out what you need in your racecar to make it the best you can. It needs to be comfortable to drive so you can drive it for 400 or 500 miles. You try to make the best speed out of it you can, but if it’s ill-handling, you’re not going to be able to try to go any faster or harder to make speed out of the car. At least if the car handles well and drives well, you can try a little harder to make speed out of it.”
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 was quite an accomplishment, for sure.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks that 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.”
Joe Gibbs Racing has won at the Brickyard three times – twice with Tony Stewart, once with Bobby Labonte. What are your thoughts on Coach Gibbs’ history at Indianapolis and what it would mean to add a Brickyard 400 trophy to your trophy case?
“Coach, being as successful as he has been there with Tony, and him being a big name from Indiana, wanting to win there, being a Hoosier, himself, that’s cool. I’m sure it was big for those guys. Bobby (Labonte) winning the year he won the championship for Joe Gibbs Racing at that racetrack was cool, with Jimmy Makar and all those guys. I’m just wishing one day I can put my name on that list by getting a win at that track and trying to run up front. You always want to win the big races. You want to win the Brickyard 400, the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 – some of those big races – before your career is over.”