The high potential for pitfalls may not make Bristol Motor Speedway a welcome sight for everyone. But not everyone has navigated past peril there quite as well as Kyle Busch.
Over the past three years, no NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has been as dominant as Busch at the high-speed .533-mile track. He enters Sunday’s Food City 500 having won four of the last six races at Bristol and is tied for most victories (five) among active drivers with brother Kurt and Jeff Gordon.
While it’s still early in the season, Busch needs a solid, if not winning, effort at Bristol to jump back into the thick of the points race. A trouble-filled outing last weekend at Las Vegas knocked him from the top 10 in Sprint Cup standings to 12th just three races in.
Coincidence or not, Busch’s uptick in performance has dovetailed with Bristol’s resurfacing and reconfiguration to a progressive-banking layout in 2007.
“Ever since I got through my rookie year, I’ve just taken a liking to the place,” Busch said. “Of course, I’ve been able to get some help from my brother. He’s always been really, really good there. But, when they changed the track to this current surface, I just really took to it right away. I really liked it and I’ve been fast there, but also I’ve had great racecars from Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Busch’s need for a positive finish is even greater in the Nationwide Series, which resumes with Saturday’s Ford Eco Boost 300. In the first three races of the season, Busch has crashed twice and failed to register a top-10 finish, leaving his own Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 entry 15th in team owner points.
Busch’s recent track record in Nationwide competition, though, is even stronger — he’s won the last three races in the series on the Bristol concrete. Still, the Nationwide success hasn’t always translated to Sprint Cup results — after a wreck-related 30th place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, Busch followed his Friday night Nationwide victory with a 14th-place run at Bristol in last August’s night race, won by Brad Keselowski.
“We kind of upset the apple cart last fall — we just didn’t have a very good weekend there,” Busch said. “With the truck race, we kind of got crashed out. The Nationwide race — I barely beat Joey (Logano), which was good — we won. Then the Cup race, we just made so many changes to the car based on how the Nationwide car ran that it threw us for a loop.”
Pit notes: Brian Vickers is scheduled to make his Sprint Cup Series season debut Sunday, making the first start of a six-race deal in Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota primarily driven by Mark Martin. . . . The 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opens Saturday evening with the first appearance at Bristol Motor Speedway in the developmental tour’s 26-year history.