|Kyle Busch's only Atlanta win came in spring of 2008 (Getty)|
But the driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) may have a few more reasons – 3 million of them, to be exact – to bring home a victory in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
That’s because the talented 26-year-old, with his win two races ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, qualified for the Sprint Summer Showdown, which culminates with this weekend’s race at Atlanta. Race winners during a five-race stretch, starting with last month’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ending with last weekend’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, became eligible for a big payout if they can find victory lane at Atlanta this weekend.
Joining Busch among race-winners over the last five events are Brad Keselowski – who won twice in that stretch –Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard, and they will be vying for $3 million dollars overall on Sunday night. If one of those four drivers were to win at Atlanta, $1 million would go to the driver’s charity of choice, $1 million to a selected fan, and $1 million to the winning driver, himself. With all that at stake, it’s a good bet the aforementioned drivers will do whatever it takes to bring home the big money.
But beyond Sunday’s night’s race at Atlanta, Busch and his No. 18 Pedigree team have their eyes on a really big trophy and another shot at really big money that goes to the 2011 Sprint Cup champion. In order to do so, the team will hope to add one or two more wins to its resume of four wins thus far this season in hopes of building as many bonus points – three for each win – heading into the final 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, for which Busch is already locked in.
Will Busch be able to win his fifth Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday night in Atlanta? There are at least 3 million of reasons for him to want to do just that. But, then again, the Las Vegas native has never lacked motivation.
KYLE BUSCH QUOTES
Are you excited to be involved in the Sprint Summer Showdown? “When Sprint announced the bonus plan for the Sprint Summer Showdown, all of us got excited and we’re pretty pumped up about it. It’s a neat opportunity for us to have something to really shoot for and to go out there and try to win the race for it. Ultimately, we still have to be smart and play it out as we would any other week. For us, it’s great to be in position. That’s why we’ve been trying to win so badly the last couple of weeks, to give us the opportunity to go for it. With our win at Michigan, we have the opportunity. Certainly, we want to put all of our eggs in that basket to try to win Sunday night with our Pedigree Camry.”
|Busch will use his runner-up Pocono chassis this week|
Is your preparation different for a night race? “For me, yeah you prepare a little bit differently. It’s a night race so it’s not so hot. You don’t have to do as much as you might for a day race with cooling and everything inside the car, but it still will be a warm one, for sure. For me, it’s just about the whole week ahead of time. You’ve got to stay hydrated and make sure you keep yourself from cramping up or something like that. With hot weekends as we get out here, that could certainly be a challenging aspect. I’ve done it before and I’ll probably still do it again.”
What does it take to be successful at Atlanta? “It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of down-force, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”
What are your memories of racing in Atlanta? “I’ve won a few truck races there, which has been fun. I have not won a Nationwide race there. I finished second three or four times, so it’s been an Achilles heel for me, I guess. The Cup races there, I’ve either been really good or mediocre or really bad. There have been times where I’ve been really good throughout the event. Last year, I think Denny (Hamlin) and I were first and second for a long time and then I kind of faded off and he ran really well until he blew up. And we finished fifth, I think. I’ve finished 12th there like seven times, I guess. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to keep the grip in my car for the long haul, as long you need throughout a run. I’m really fast for the first five, eight laps. But then, after that, I seem to slip more than anyone else.”
You gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup Series win by scoring a victory at Atlanta in March 2008. What do you remember about that? “Running in Atlanta and being able to put Toyota in victory lane for the first time, that was special for me and for Joe Gibbs Racing and everybody. Certainly, that was neat. We’ve put Toyota in victory lane a lot more times since then, so it’s been really good for all of us and, hopefully, we can do it again.”
You’re competing in all three NASCAR races this week at Atlanta – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck. Talk about that. “For me, running the Friday race and Saturday race, it’s just the extra track time you get. The extra chances you get behind the wheel. How the track will change throughout a run. The tires at Atlanta wear out so fast that you can feel the slip of the car more and just trying to feel how much you can slip it and how hard you can run the tire before you actually really lose total grip. So, a lot of that stuff plays into being able to run all three there.”
What challenges does the day-to-night format present at Atlanta in the Sprint Cup race? “Certainly, we practice all during the day, so the daytime practice is easy for the beginning of the race, but how the racetrack picks up speed and certainly gets faster throughout the night and, of course, the balance can change a little bit. With the speed getting faster, certainly the loads change a little bit for you, so you have to be conscious of that. The crew chiefs are good at what they do and that’s why they get paid the big bucks is to try to figure out what best suits the cars for nighttime, because that’s when the race is going to end. Certainly, you want to be good at night.”
What did you think of the speed at Atlanta the first time you raced there? “My first time there was 2003 in a Nationwide Series car and it was definitely fast. It’s all relative. You run the same speed around everybody and it really doesn’t feel that fast, so it feels like you do anywhere else, whether you’re at Las Vegas or Chicago or Kansas or any of those places.”
KYLE'S CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its second-ever start in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. No. 318 made its debut in August at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where Busch started 11th, led 27 laps, and brought home a solid second-place finish in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.
- True Speed Communication for Joe Gibbs Racing, Press Release