Atlanta Motor Speedway's Sept. 2-4 AdvoCare 500 weekend will feature three nights of racing on the 1.54-mile high banks. NASCAR veteran Kyle Busch will enter all of them in an attempt for his second career three-race sweep at one track.
Busch will pilot his No. 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicle on Friday night, climb behind the wheel of the No. 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series machine on Saturday night, then wheel his familiar No. 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car to close out the weekend on Sunday.
To many drivers, the prospect of tacking three races on one weekend at a track that requires drivers to muscle their car around the high banks is something that would seem daunting. For Busch, the event has become routine for the Las Vegas, Nev. native.
While Busch recently won his 100th race in NASCAR competition, and has stated that winning 200 races is a tangible goal of his, triple duty weekends and dipping into the other levels of racing are not fueled by the desire to break records. As a racer, Busch simply loves being behind the wheel. More laps on the track add to his experience and knowledge of each track, whether it is what line to run or how loose or tight the vehicle needs to be. More laps also allow more time to understand the tires being used that weekend.
"You still have special traits with different tire compounds that Goodyear comes out with and with all the vehicles now having splitters and all having limited front end travel, all the concepts and ideas are sort of the same," says Busch. "The level of information that's being put in the cookie jar is a lot more than just running with one team. Your thought processes are a bit different and your experience level just grows a lot faster.
"I learn so many things during the truck race that I can correlate to my Nationwide car or my Cup car. I like to be able to give that information to Dave (Rogers, Cup crew chief). Other thing too is when I'm working with Eric Philips (Truck crew chief) and with Jason Ratcliff (Nationwide crew chief), they have way different mindsets and thoughts and processes of how to make a vehicle go better and faster that Dave Rogers might not have. I can take all that information I learned all the way back and forth across all three and try to increase the level of competition in all of them. My encyclopedia fills up quick."
Busch has been more than successful with Joe Gibbs Racing and their No. 18 in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, but Camping World Truck Series success is a special point of pride for Busch. His truck successes are made behind the wheel of his own equipment, prepared by his Kyle Busch Motorsports team, now in its second season of competition.
"It means a lot," says Busch about having success with his own team. "We've worked awfully hard and had a lot of things go right and some things go wrong this year, but the rights have outweighed the wrongs. The guys have done a great job at KBM. Everybody from Rick (Ren, general manager) to Eric (Phillips, crew chief) to the guys that work so hard day in and day out in the body shop and the chassis shop. They've given me a world of a season here in winning the most races thus far and having some fast trucks. It's the second year for us venturing into truck racing and it's probably been one of those first years that many people see in running their own business or their own company – the ups and the downs and the blood, sweat and tears that happen."
To date, Busch will enter this year's AdvoCare 500 weekend with one win in Sprint Cup competition and four wins in the Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta. It has been feast or famine for Busch at AMS and he looks to improve on last year's fifth-place finish in the Labor Day weekend Cup race.
"We ran well there when we won in 2008, but last year we struggled trying to get our car handling right there and we never really hit on it," says Busch. "I know Dave (Rogers, crew chief) has been working hard on our setup so we can be competitive there. We were competitive in the spring late in the race, but just got involved in someone else's mess and hurt our run. Atlanta definitely doesn't have much grip, but I still seem to like it. There are so many lines. You can run anywhere on the track and I love that. Coming off turn two, if you're running the low line and start to slide up, you have a tendency to get sideways. But, otherwise, it's a really fun track. It's really a driver's track because, when you get about 40 laps on your tires, you really start to slide around and that can be a handful."
Busch's lone Atlanta Cup win came in 2008, and was a special day for several reasons. It was Busch's first win with Joe Gibbs Racing, it was Toyota's first win in Sprint Cup competition and was the first time the No. 18 team had been to victory lane since 2003. That race served as a spring-board for the No. 18 bunch, as Busch went on to win eight races during the 2008 season.
"Winning at Atlanta a couple of years ago was special for a lot of reasons," says Busch. "It was nice to get some momentum, but that win was more about showing the guys what they were capable of. It was really awesome to see all the guys back in victory lane at Atlanta and enjoying the win. I remember the years of watching Bobby Labonte dominate at Atlanta and plenty of other places. The win reminded me of watching the 18 car up front where it used to be and where it belongs with Snickers and M&M's getting their first win with us. To see the smiles on everyone's face was great. And of course to get Toyota the win, well, it just all meant so much. Once we got the first one, it just helped us dig down deeper to try for more and everybody on the 18 team believed they could."
Busch eagerly awaits this year's Atlanta Motor Speedway tripleheader. With a lack of grip that Atlanta is famous for, AMS is a driver's track. There may not be a bigger wheelman out there than Busch, so Atlanta is right up his alley.
"I think it will be somewhat similar to last year," Busch says about this year's AdvoCare 500. "You'll still have the heat of the day going into the night and into the deeper night. It should be a lot of fun. I like the challenge of going into the night race at Atlanta. It should make for an interesting race."
NASCAR night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4. Tickets for the AdvoCare 500 start at $39 and $19 for students. Children 12 and under admitted free for the Great Clips 300 and the Atlanta 200 with an adult ticket. For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.