May 13, 2009
‘Bring Back the Trophy or the Steering Wheel’
HUNTERSVILLE, NC. (May 13, 2009) – If there was one person who best described the attitude of everyone involved in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, it would be former track President H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, who once called it a race in which the owner of the car tells the driver, “Bring me back the trophy or the steering wheel.”
While it’s uncertain whether team owner Joe Gibbs has said this to Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M'S® Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the talented young driver certainly would be expected to do just that, even without the urging of the man who cuts his paycheck.
In his three previous All-Star Race appearances at the 1.5-mile oval, the second-year Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver has yet to finish, despite leading 60 total laps in those three races. Accidents knocked Busch out of the 2006 and 2007 events, and an engine failure forced him to the garage area early in last year’s event after leading 38 laps.
Busch earned his spot in this year’s All-Star Race – comprised primarily of 2008 and 2009 Sprint Cup race winners, plus past All-Star Race winners and past series champions – via his eight series wins in 2008 and his series-high three wins in NASCAR’s top series thus far in 2009.
The Las Vegas native, at just 24 years of age, not only has earned the title of All-Star, but he’s quickly become one of the dominant forces in the elite Sprint Cup Series. With his 15th career Sprint Cup win two weeks ago at Richmond (VA) International Raceway, Busch tied four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon for the most wins before the age of 25. Busch now has 50 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. That mark ties him for 11th all-time with Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson and Greg Biffle.
Busch was widely 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.
A competitor who describes his driving style as “patiently aggressive” during points-paying events week in and week out, Busch views Saturday’s non-points-paying All-Star Race as his annual, one-time opportunity to throw patience out the window at his own discretion.
That’s reason enough for fans to keep an eye out for the colorful M&M’s Toyota come Saturday night when there’s nothing more than money and pride on the line. Whether Busch brings back the trophy or the steering wheel, it’s a safe bet he’ll be exciting to watch.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What’s the difference between how you race in a points-paying race versus a non-points event like the All-Star Race?
“The All-Star Race is a different atmosphere for me, since it’s a different way of racing for everybody. It’s just that it’s a non-points race, and the pure fact you’re going after a race just for bragging rights and a million bucks. That’s what it’s all about. Our pit crew is really solid, so I hope we can earn the pole again like we did last year with the combination of speed and what those guys do on pit road.”
How would you describe your driving style? Does your style fit well with the All-Star Race?
“It’s hard to describe a driving style. A lot of guys would say they’re patiently aggressive. That’s the best way to look at it. I guess that’s the way I thought I was a few years ago, even though there wasn’t a lot of patience involved. Now, there’s lot more involved and I’ve gotten smarter. There were plenty of times that I could have made moves this year at certain points of the race and I decided to back off and wait a lap and let it happen on its own. So, it’s been a lot better and I’ve thought about things a lot more. It seems to me that success is becoming a little easier when you are patient when you need to be, but also aggressive when you need to be. In a non-points race, you just take a different attitude than you would in a points race and it makes it exciting for the fans.”
Do you have a favorite memory of watching the All-Star Race as a fan?
“I think my favorite memory of watching as a fan growing up was the T-Rex car with Jeff (Gordon) and being a Jeff Gordon fan and watching him dominate that night and pretty much taking everybody to school. I guess that car probably took everybody to school more than he did. It was fun to be a Gordon fan that day.”
Do you know the format changes and do you like them?
“It changes every year. You try not to pay attention to it until you get there for the weekend, and then you get a refresher course on what’s going to happen because they might change it between now and when it comes up.”
Do you choose the car or does your crew chief choose?
“I don’t really do any of that. That is more in the crew chief’s (Steve Addington) hands and, typically, they pick the best one for the 600, anyway. We always try to make sure we keep the best one for the race that we gain points for.”
Does the lack of testing put more pressure on the driver?
“Not really. I just think it’s going to be a fine race for everybody. It should be fun, hopefully. Without the testing, I think it should make things a little more interesting to see who is coming prepared and who has good notes from last year and who decided to change some things for this year.”
What is it like for the pit crew to have its own competition?
“The Thursday highlight is fun, and those guys really enjoy the Thursday deal down at the Bobcats’ arena. That’s always all about them, and I go to support my team guys. This year won’t be any different, and racing Saturday will be good, too, since everyone gets to kind of have a go-for-broke attitude.”