Kyle Busch hopes to win the race-and the numbers game-at Indianapolis
SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Kyle Busch's appearance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend involves more numbers than anyone could be expected to remember.
First and foremost, Busch has a chance to win a third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the 2.5-mile track. No other driver has ever accomplished that feat on the oval-either in Cup or IndyCar Series racing.
In fact, Jimmie Johnson (2008-2009) is the only driver in NASCAR's top series to win back-to-back races at the vaunted Brickyard. In more than 100 years of IndyCar racing five drivers have won consecutive Indianapolis 500s-Wilbur Shaw (1939-1940), Mauri Rose (1947-1948), Bill Vukovich (1953-1954), Al Unser Sr. (1970-1971), and most recently Helio Castroneves (2001-2002).
Michael Schumacher won four straight Formula One races at the track, but those victories-all for Ferrari-came on the road course, not the oval.
If Busch happens to win the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), he'll erase another significant number. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota hasn't won a race in NASCAR's premier series since last year's run at the Brickyard, a dry spell that reached 35 races last week at New Hampshire.
"It's pretty cool to come in here thinking that we have a chance to go for three-in-a-row and, you know, it's ultimately frustrating in the same breath that, you know, it's been 365 days since we've won one of these things," Busch said. "It's certainly hasn't been from lack of effort or fast race cars...
"It's just every single week it just seems to be something else that kind of bites us, you know? It's not the same thing over and over again that we've got to fix, so it's just little things here or there that keep kind of working against us."
At some point, Busch would also like to become the first driver to win both a Brickyard 400 and an Indy 500-but he'll have to find a way to run the Indy 500 first. Busch had a deal in place to do the double, until his NASCAR boss intervened.
Busch's team owner is Joe Gibbs.
"I had it done last year - sold and everything ready to go - and I've got a boss that said no," Busch said. "Figure it out. I've got two bosses - one's a male and one's a female. I would certainly (want to run the Indy 500). I thought that I had a great opportunity to do it."
There's one other number Busch definitely remembers about the Brickyard. Ten years ago Friday, he met his wife Samantha while giving ride-arounds at the speedway.
"I wasn't very well known, obviously, in the Cup tour then, so it was just kind of fun, and we exchanged numbers there and then I actually didn't see her again for three months," Busch said. "But we talked on the phone and she... I finally got her talked into coming to another race...
"So that was a long time ago and from there, (we) just kind of hit it off and have been together ever since."
NASCAR OPTIMISTIC ABOUT XFINITY RULES PACKAGE FOR THE BRICKYARD
The spoiler is taller and wider. The front splitter is larger, too. And restrictor plates will cut the capability of NASCAR XFINITY Series engines by more than 200 horsepower.
But when the XFINITY cars line up for the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, the most noticeable performance change may come from the aero ducts in the noses designed to create a wake of air and provide trailing cars with a power advantage.
NASCAR adopted these changes to keep cars closer together and to promote passing at a track where getting by another car can be a major challenge.
Ryan Reed, Blake Koch and Brandon Jones tested the new package last October.
"Our goal is to get the cars to stay closer together," said NASCAR XFINITY Series director Wayne Auton. "Hopefully, the passing comes with it. Based on the test, it should create a lot of passing."
The XFINITY cars will be using .875-inch restrictor plates, the same size as those employed at Daytona and Talladega. Unlike those two tracks, where locking bumpers and sustained pushing are prohibited, Auton says that practice will be encouraged during Saturday's race at Indy.
"You're going to be able to lock bumpers," Reed said. "You're going to be able to get to the guy in front of you and bump-draft or tandem-draft - whatever you want to call it - but once you get down in the corner what are you going to do? That's going to be the problem. This place is so flat that you can predict the same style of racing as Daytona and Talladega, but once you get down in the corner the balance is still going to matter.
"When you are tandeming, you're going to be going a lot faster, so you're going to have to respect the guy in front of you. If someone does get to your bumper and does give you a shot, you're at his mercy, so you're going to hope that he gives you a break once you get down in the corner."
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---