Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch says he will run all seven races at Darlington and Charlotte

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Defending Cup series champion Kyle Busch said Thursday he will be running all seven NASCAR national series races over the next 11 days at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A Cup race Sunday at Darlington Raceway will mark NASCAR’s return from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and will be followed by an Xfinity race May 19 and another Cup race May 20.

NASCAR then moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Cup races May 24 and 27, an Xfinity race May 25 and a truck race May 26.

“I’m running all of those, every one that’s scheduled I’m in,” Busch told Adam Schein in an interview on SiriusXM Radio. “It’s going to be getting thrown to the wolves, that’s for sure.”

NEXT PHASE: NASCAR unveils its June schedule

Running multiple series is old hat for Busch. At Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2010, he became the first driver to sweep a race weekend tripleheader of NASCAR’s top three national series (and has done it again since then).

Though his starts have been curtailed by NASCAR rules the past few years, Busch has 209 victories across Cup (56), Xfinity (96) and trucks (57).

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver thinks these seven races will be less taxing because of their abbreviated schedules.

“With this, all you can do is show up, you get in the vehicle and you run the race,” Busch said. “I feel as though it sounds really labor intensive and heavy and man, that’s a lot. But in my mind, I’m kind of like, ‘Man, I don’t know if it’s really going to be that bad.’ But I’ll let you know when it’s all said and done.”

Busch also talked extensively about how NASCAR will handle health screenings at Darlington Raceway.

“They want all the documentation of what you’ve done, what you’ve been doing, who you’ve been around for the past 14 days, and then they also want you to take an antibody test and get some testing done which won’t get back in time for that same day,” Busch said. “They’re doing the forehead checks of your temperature and one other new test that I think is out on the market. I don’t know if we’re getting that yet or in a week or two.

“They’re going through a vigorous process to make sure everybody stays safe, and then they want everybody to stay isolated. All of the same team members that work in the shops and come from Joe Gibbs Racing. They want everyone to stay isolated and separate as much as possible.”

A NASCAR spokesman clarified that there will be no COVID-19 anitbody testing Sunday at Darlington Raceway.

Timmy Hill, one of the dominant drivers of the Pro Invitational iRacing Series, also confirmed to NBCSports.com’s Daniel McFadin via text that he will be racing in all seven races, too.

NASCAR’s best? ‘You’re looking at him’: Kyle Busch swaggers into Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The champ is here.

Swagger always has been a centerpiece of the Kyle Busch Experience, and you could look no further than Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day for the latest evidence that the reigning NASCAR Cup champion still brims with confidence and peak sass that hardly has subsided since his second title in November.

Who’s the best driver in NASCAR?

“You’re looking at him,” Busch said without skipping a beat.

What do you think about the president possibly attending Sunday’s race?

“Rumors are rumors. I have a rumor that I’m not starting the Daytona 500, so how about that?”

How do you think the new short-track package for 2020 will affect performance at Phoenix Raceway (site of the relocated championship race this year)?

“New rules, old rules. Joe Gibbs Racing, baby! That’s where it’s at.”

A 20-minute interview session with Busch (who also delivered some sharp insight) felt very much akin to the engaged yet looser guy who rolled through Daytona last month with an appealing brashness in his Rolex 24 debut, playfully asserting his massive sway and his eventual quest for world racing domination.

There is one niggling fact, though, that always threatens to knock Busch down a peg at the World Center of Racing.

The self-proclaimed best active driver in Cup has yet to win NASCAR’s biggest race in 14 attempts.

Busch has only one points victory (July 2008) in 29 starts at Daytona International Speedway and a best finish of second in the Daytona 500 (to winner and teammate Denny Hamlin last year).

Such an omission might seem irksome for the superstar who hates to lose so much, his runner-up interviews sometimes can turn as churlish.

But for Busch, an apt pupil so aware of his place in NASCAR history that he often can recite arcane records and statistics from memory, getting asked about the Daytona 500 void on his lofty resume is “fine” because he appreciates the allure of the storyline.

“It’s attention to the sport, which is good for all of us,” he said. “Me not being able to win the Daytona 500 isn’t something that’s going to kill me, but it’s certainly going to weigh on me in the late goings of a race to try to get out there and win this thing.

“We were so close last year. There was just a couple circumstances, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion this year. But you know, it is what it is. We’ll go out there this year and see if we can’t give it the same shot we gave it last year.”

It would be easy for him still to be hung up on last year. Busch was leading under yellow with two laps remaining in the scheduled 500-mile distance when he chose the inside for a restart. Hamlin lined up on the outside, took the lead shortly after the green for good in the overtime finish.

It’s left the No. 18 Toyota driver still in a Daytona 500 winless column that also includes some Hall of Famers. That provides some solace for Busch, who can rattle off the winless streaks for Dale Earnhardt (20 races) and Darrell Waltrip (17) before their first triumphs in the Great American Race.

Tony Stewart never won, Mark Martin never won, Rusty (Wallace),” he said. “There are a lot of greats that haven’t. I would definitely not want to be on that list if I had my way, but you don’t always have your way, especially in restrictor plate racing with just how random it is. Years ago, probably ’85, ’87 maybe or earlier, it was way more skill, car, equipment, driver. But the restrictor plate stuff, it’s been way more random and unexpected.”

The plate era began in 1988, leading to the era of drafting producing some arbitrary results. Though the plates were exchanged for similarly shaped tapered spacers last year, the dynamics remained constant.

And with a larger spoiler causing massive closing rates and erasing the effectiveness of blocking, drivers were predicting Wednesday that the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 could produce as many wrecks than last Sunday’s Busch Clash (in which all 18 cars were involved in an incident).

That probably leaves Busch no more or less likely to win than in his previous 15 years of trying to win a career-defining race – not that his record needs burnishing.

With 208 national series wins, Busch surpassed a goal of reaching 200 last year that he openly had talked about reaching since a May 2009 win at Richmond. On the weekend he won his second championship, Busch, 34, fretted about being “behind” on trying to reach eight Cup championships (suggesting five remained in range).

He demurs on his place in history (It’s not for me to decide.”), but he is mindful of having the chance to be remembered as one of the greatest ever (“It’s not life or death, but it would certainly be nice.”)

As well as the goal-setting swagger required to get there.

“There’s opportunities out there that, all things considered and all the stars align, yeah, you can make it there,” he said. “You’d better set your goals high, as I’ve always kind of looked at it, and try and go out there and achieve them and not be totally disappointed or let down if you’re not able to achieve those goals. But if you set it at one championship or two championships, well, hell, I’ve already done it, so why am I still here?

“We keep changing that and moving those targets a little bit.”

Kyle Busch gives sports cars a spin: ‘You can drive the snot out of them’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch climbed from his new ride Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway with a wide smile and a few shrugs at his AIM Vasser Sullivan Racing teammates.

How was the prep work going for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut?

“I was able to run some pretty decent times,” Busch said at a news conference between practice sessions during the opening day of the Roar Before the Rolex test. “That’s what the guys said anyway. I don’t know.”

Rarely does Busch, quite possibly the most demanding and exacting driver in NASCAR’s premier series, find himself at a loss for explaining all of the nuances that make a race car handle at optimum speed.

Which made Friday’s indoctrination at Daytona a sometimes disorienting mix of confusion alleviated by maximum camaraderie for the two-time Cup champion, who constantly was surrounded by helpful faces.

“Everyone has done a great job of welcoming me in and making me feel part of the team, getting me up to speed, getting me accustomed and used to what this form of racing is and what it entails,” said Busch, who is only six weeks removed from his second title. “But certainly a lot to improve on still. I’ve got my NASCAR driving techniques just embedded in my brain. I’ve got to get rid of those a little bit more.

“Getting more accustomed to what this car can take and what the driving techniques are that are different between the two vehicles take is certainly a lot.”

The team’s two cars had 90 minutes over two practices to break in the most famous of its eight drivers for the 24-hour endurance classic, which will take place Jan 25-26.

Busch did two stints Friday over the course of about 35 minutes in the No. 14 Lexus during the opening session. After Jack Hawksworth shook down the car for about 20 minutes, Busch climbed in at 11:25 a.m. and was within 3 seconds of his teammate during a 10-lap stint.

After an 8-minute pit stop for adjustments, Busch shaved off another second over a 14-minute run in the car in which he posted lap times the team felt was respectable.

“He’s right where he should be,” said Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson, one of several executives in the AIM Vasser Sullivan pit to observe Busch at the test. “So much of endurance racing is about confidence and being comfortable.”

Traffic and technology also will be the two major hurdles for Busch getting acclimated to sports cars. AIM Vasser Sullivan races in the GTD division, which is about 10 seconds slower around the 3.56-mile road course than the premier DPi prototype class.

That means Busch (who had one other IMSA start at Daytona nearly 12 years ago in a prototype) will be getting lapped much more often than which he is accustomed in Cup. In a role reversal of sorts, NASCAR veteran Cody Ware will be competing against Busch in the faster LMP2 division for the Rolex 24.

Especially when racing at night, Busch will rely on spotter Tony Hirschman to keep him abreast of the divergent speeds (which he also can distinguish through the varying colors of the cars’ lights).

He will be navigating the field while also adapting to cars that stop on a dime because of sophisticated antilock braking systems that are much different than his No. 18 Toyota in Cup.

“The braking is certainly the biggest adjustment,” Busch said. “I’m used to our big heavy stock cars, where you have to start the slowdown process way early, and the braking zone is forever. By the time you turn in, you have to be off the brakes because otherwise the inside wheels lock up, and you’ll skid the tires. So you also have to take care of our brakes on the Cup cars because they’re so heavy and steel and you can really overheat them.

“Completely different techniques that you have to work with on these cars. You can drive the snot out of them. You can throw it off into the corner as far as you feel you can get in there. And stomp the pedal as hard as your leg will allow you to do it.”

Busch spent some of Friday finding those limits, once driving 50 feet deeper into a chicane than teammate Jack Hawksworth. “That was too far,” Busch chuckled. “Noted.”

He had many places to look for advice. Townsend Bell, the NBC Sports analyst who also drives for the team, offered encouragement and pointers for several minutes Friday as the first to greet Busch after his first stint.

Hawksworth, a veteran of sports cars and IndyCar who scored two class wins for AIM Vasser Sullivan last year, flew to North Carolina recently to tutor Busch through a five-hour session in the driving simulator at TRD’s Salisbury facility.

“That was very useful and a great learning tool,” he said. “Definitely learned a lot. Came out of that with a good baseline for being able to come here and have a better understanding of what to expect.

“Without that, I’d be completely lost. It was good to do that. Jack’s been my biggest help and supporter. Townsend as well, too. I’ve talked to him a few times on the phone. Having Jack hands on with us at the test and being my teammate here has been big.”

But yet Busch also sheepishly confessed to at least one instance in which “I’m already trying to set up the car.

“It’s got understeer here, oversteer there or whatever. I suggested us going softer (on the setup), and they’re like, ‘We’re as soft as we can get,’ and I said “Well, that ain’t soft enough!’

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that we’re as soft as we can go. You always think of different ways of being able to engineer something. Obviously, there’s a rulebook as well, too, and I have no familiarity with any of that. So I could be totally off base to what my team already knows and I don’t.”

The Rolex 24 has been unfamiliar territory for many NASCAR interlopers before Busch. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson and Busch’s older brother, Kurt, are among many who have crossed over with some success.

Buch hopes to match that as the latest interloper.

“It would mean a lot” to win, he said. “Of course I want to have fun, but more importantly, I want to go out there and win for Lexus and AIM Vasser Sullivan and be able to put on a good show for the fans that show up but also the NASCAR community as well.

“Definitely a lot of guys have shown their taste of the Rolex 24, and this is my chance to be able to do that, so just hope we can keep it all on the racetrack for the whole race and have a shot at the end.”

Kyle Busch calls out ‘guys who have never won Late Model races’ in Cup

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LAS VEGAS – A top-five comeback fit for a king Sunday night was ended by a driver Kyle Busch didn’t think was worthy of sharing the racetrack with him.

After scraping the wall and falling two laps down because of a green flag stop on Lap 11, the playoff points leader nearly battled all the way back to salvaging a strong finish in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But Busch finished a lap down in 19th after running into Garrett Smithley, whose No. 52 Ford finished 12 laps down in 35th.

“I was told he was going to go high,” Busch said in a postrace interview with Parker Kligerman on NBCSN (video above). “I thought he was going to go high. He went middle because I thought he was going to go high. Killed our day. I don’t know. Should have run fourth probably. Instead 19th.”

Smithley was making his 12th start in the Cup series. He has one top five in 133 starts across the Xfinity and truck series, and Busch questioned his credentials for running in NASCAR’s premier series.

“We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack,” Busch said. “It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Smithley told NASCAR.com’s Zack Albert after the race that Busch has “never been in the position we’ve been in, so he doesn’t know how that goes.” Albert also talked with Joey Gase, whose 38th-place car (which was 18 laps down) also seemed to impede Busch in the closing laps.

Before speaking with Kligerman, Busch made a brief visit to a postrace media bullpen provided by NASCAR. The 2015 series champion tersely answered eight questions, capping it with a “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” in a tribute to NFL star Marshawn Lynch (who happened to be the honorary pace car driver Sunday).

Busch, whose rebound came after taking a waveraound on a Lap 182 caution and then getting back on pit sequence because of a yellow on Lap 189, at least will carry a solid 36-point lead into Richmond Raceway, where he is the defending winner of the second race in the opening round of the playoffs.

By virtue of winning the regular-season title, Busch has a 45-point playoff margin (15 points more than teammate Denny Hamlin) that he will carry throughout the playoffs. It makes Busch a virtual cinch to advance, though he hardly found solace in that Sunday night.

“It’s pathetic to have to lean on insurance,” Busch said. “My premiums are going to go up.”

Xfinity Series practice report from Texas Motor Speedway

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Kyle Busch was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, posting a top speed of 187.813 mph.

He was followed by Brad Keselowski (186.884 mph).

The top five was completed by Tyler Reddick (186.884), Justin Allgaier (186.683) and Noah Gragson (186.239).

Kaz Grala, who is making his first start of the season this weekend, recorded the most laps with 51. He was eighth on the speed chart.

Reddick had the best 10-lap average at 185.244 mph.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Reddick was fastest in the first practice session.

Reddick posted a top speed of 187.357 mph to best Busch (187.045 mph).

In third was Reddick’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Grala (186.831).

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell (186.361) and Michael Annett (186.220).

Jeffrey Earnhardt spun early in the session in Turns 1-2 and barely avoided contact with the outside wall. He was 16th on the speed chart.

Click here for the practice report.