Las Vegas: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH No More Seconds, Please HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Feb. 27, 2008) -- Forgive Kyle Busch if he's a little tired of finishing second. Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR Nationwide ...

Las Vegas: Kyle Busch preview

No More Seconds, Please

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Feb. 27, 2008) -- Forgive Kyle Busch if he's a little tired of finishing second.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, sits second in that series' point standings while simultaneously leading the championship standings in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the elite NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And while he wants to maintain his dominance in all three divisions, he can't overlook the fact that he's finished second more than he's finished first -- something he'd like to rectify this weekend at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The lone division where Busch doesn't lead the point standings is the Nationwide Series, where he sits second and -- you guessed it -- finished second to his JGR teammate Tony Stewart in the first two races of the season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana.

The only other second Busch wants to hear about this weekend at Las Vegas is a win in his second outing of the season with the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Nationwide Series race.

With a victory on Saturday, Busch could emerge as the first driver in NASCAR history to lead all three of the sanctioning body's top divisions at one time.

The 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas' Durango High School has had some success at the 1.5-mile oval, notching two top-five and three top-10 finishes in four Sprint Cup starts, and one top-five finish in four Nationwide Series starts. But by his lofty standards, he isn't satisfied with anything less victory.

Busch was oh-so-close to getting a victory in last year's Sam's Town 300, but a last-lap tangle with Jeff Burton just before they crossed the start-finish line denied Busch of that highly coveted victory.

The wild finish was set up after NASCAR officials waved the red flag for a multi-car accident with less than 10 laps to go, temporarily halting the race. When the race restarted, Busch got by Burton, and with just six laps to go, it looked as if Busch would take home his first victory at Las Vegas.

On the final lap, Burton squeezed to the outside of Busch off turn four, and the two were in a drag race to the finish line. Burton hugged the outside wall and Busch tried to hug the inside of Burton's car. Burton ended up nipping Busch at the line as Busch spun and smacked the outside wall in a runner-up effort.

Busch will look to avenge that second-place finish from a year ago with a new team behind him and another year of experience under his belt.

With Busch having enjoyed a successful Nationwide Series test at Las Vegas with the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team in late January, crew chief Jason Ratcliff believes this might be the weekend they help their 22-year-old wheelman rid of his case of the "seconds" and bring home that much-desired first Nationwide Series win of the season and the first at his hometown track.

No doubt Busch will second that.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Las Vegas:

Your worst NASCAR finish this season has been fourth, and you've had three second-place finishes. Despite the strong runs, and your Craftsman Truck Series win at Fontana, is it disappointing that you haven't been able to score more wins?

"The biggest thing we try to do is to get results and get wins. That is the optimum thing you want to do -- to get your team to victory lane. We weren't able to capitalize on that in either (the Nationwide Series or Sprint Cup Series) race at California, but in the Truck series, we were able to. It just means we have a little more work to do. At the same time, you can't really complain coming out of two weekends and all six finishes are in the top-five."

There are huge races during the season that everyone wants to win, like Daytona and Indianapolis. But how much would taking a win in your hometown of Las Vegas mean?

"It's probably the second-biggest Nationwide Series race behind Daytona and in the top-five Sprint Cup races of the year for me. It's a fun place to race and a great place to race. The fans get to watch a great show at Las Vegas, and I'm sure we're going to have a good time again."

You're racing out West for a couple of weeks with trips to California and Las Vegas. Do you enjoy traveling out there and do you feel more comfortable going to the part of the country since it's where you grew up?

"Everybody hates the time change. I use that to my advantage since I think I'm usually on West Coast time anyway. I still haven't gotten East Coast time down yet. It's fun for me. It's a cool atmosphere and the weather is great without the humidity. If it's hot out, it's nice and warm. And if it's cold, it's a crisp cold. It's still home and I love being out West."

You were involved in a wild finish with Jeff Burton in last year's Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas. Talk about those final laps.

"We had a fast race car. We had a red flag late and had a restart where the tires cooled down. Jeff Burton's car went back to where he was too loose and mine went back to being really good. I was able to get position on him and get by him and then my car started getting tight, where I couldn't turn as well, and his car tightened up a bit more and got good. He was just barely faster on the last lap coming to the start-finish line. I probably could've squeezed him up into the wall, but I gave him room and we raced to the finish line and I was the one who ended up spinning. It was a fun race, but you would like to be able to win the thing instead of finishing second. This year, hopefully we'll at least have the opportunity to race up in the front with all of those guys. This year, I think I know what I can do a little bit differently in order to come out on top."

Where do you like to eat out West that you can't back in Charlotte, N.C.?

"I love to eat at In-N-Out Burger or Wienerschnitzel. I think we always gain some weight when we get back out to the West Coast."

Now that there is no off-week between the California and Las Vegas races, how does that change your plans for the early-season West Coast swing over these two weeks?

"I went right to Las Vegas after the California race and have already been playing on my quad out in the sand dunes. But I was going to do that anyway if we had the off-week. I just won't be able to play for as many days as I could last year."

You got off to a great start with the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Nationwide Series team at Daytona. What are your thoughts on bringing the same guys back to Las Vegas after testing there for a day in January?

"I think we had a great test. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and I worked well together. We changed a couple of things and we unloaded really well right off the bat. It took me just a few laps to get used to the horsepower change in the Nationwide Series cars. The cars drove great and I think we've got something we can run up front with, and I'm hoping we can be in contention for the win."

-credit: jgr

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