The 62nd annual Daytona 500 is right around the corner, and some of NASCAR's most successful drivers are still looking for their first wins in the Great American Race. One of those is defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who has found success at Daytona International Speedway seemingly everywhere except the Great American Race.
The younger Busch brother has won the then-Independence Day weekend race in 2008, an Xfinity Series race in 2007, the 2012 Busch Clash (then known as the Budweiser Shootout), and three Daytona qualifying races, but his best finish at the 500 is a second-place finish at last year's event.
Busch spoke to The Big Lead about the big event.
TBL: How does your team go about preparing for the Daytona 500 every season?
KB: They go about preparing for it pretty well. We've got an extensive aero-wind tunnel testing program and some other things that we do behind the scenes and also just preparing the cars to the best of our ability and making sure that they're as sleek as possible, because when we run around this 2.5-mile racetrack, you want to have a really fast car and one that also handles well in the draft. And the setups have always been good thanks to my crew chief Adam Stevens and the work that he puts in and the relationship with the engineers and all those guys. So it's our first weekend out of the gate. We want to be well-prepared, and that's what it boils down to.
TBL: Few teams in NASCAR have been as dominant over the past decade as Joe Gibbs Racing. Could you describe your relationship with the team, and with him personally?
KB: Yeah, Joe's one of the best. Obviously having the team and the relationship that I've had with Joe for the last 12-15 years has been phenomenal because we've had a great time together. We've won a lot of races together. We've been successful together. Two championships, and...we're not done yet. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, and a lot more success ahead of us as well, hopefully. So Joe is very good at creating a good work environment and pushing his people to getting the most out of them at being the best that they can, knowing how to put those people in the right places. The things that he says to motivate everyone are the things that gets everyone fired up to want to go out there and work harder and dig deeper and to get the most out of our equipment, and people is what it's all about.
TBL: You've had success at Daytona in the past, but you've yet to win the 500. Could you describe the hole that it leaves in your career?
KB: It's frustrating sometimes, but it also puts a little bit of pressure on you to get the race win done. It makes you work harder to want to go out there and to achieve that win, so something that you don't take lightly. Obviously I look forward to the challenge, and what this Daytona 500 victory would mean to me, to my team, and to Joe Gibbs Racing and everybody. It's been a long time coming. Hopefully we can achieve it this weekend.
TBL: This will be Jimmie Johnson's final full-time season in NASCAR. You were briefly a teammate with him at Hendrick Motorsports from 2004-2007. What are your most vivid memories of competing with him on the track?
KB: It's been really, really good over the course of our careers together. We've raced each other really, really hard for race wins, for championships. We've also been able to go out there and never really put a mark on each other's cars. We've always had the utmost respect for one another and just continue to race each other as hard as we can. So he's left a stable footprint on this sport in what he's been able to do and accomplish and I always look at that #48 Lowe's car in the same regard as the #3 Goodwrench car or the #43 STP car.
TBL: This is gonna be a bit off-topic, but you were recently spotted in a commercial for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. What was it like on the set shooting that commercial?
KB: It was fun, you know? I had a great experience with those guys and it was kinda unique to do a commercial shoot with a cartoon character, if you will, but I remember back in the day when I was a kid growing up playing the Sega and playing the Sonic the Hedgehog games, so I'm well familiar and well-versed in the coins and the rings and the speed and all the stuff that he's got. It really brought me back to my childhood.