To say Kyle Busch has been rather busy this season might be the understatement of the year.
The driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota has competed in every race in NASCAR's top three divisions thus far in 2009 - although to say he merely 'competed' might be another monumental understatement.
He's won five of the twelve races available to him - a staggering winning percentage of 41.6 - having found victory lane in two of three Camping World Truck Series events, one of four Nationwide Series events and two of five Sprint Cup events held thus far. His second Sprint Cup win, and fifth overall NASCAR victory of 2009, at last week's Food City 500 inched the 23-year old closer to a record that could well be his before the season is over.
Jeff Gordon currently holds the record for most Sprint Cup victories claimed before the age of 25, with 15 before he hit the quarter-century mark, but Busch, who does not turn 25 until 2 May 2010, is now just one win away from tying the four-time champion. This week, however, in addition to trying to match Gordon's record, Busch will attempt to conquer a track that has been unconquerable to him in his young career.
Of the 30 tracks that will host NASCAR's top three divisions in 2009, Busch has competed at 28 at least once and won at 20. One of the eight venues where he has not been victorious, however, is Martinsville, the setting for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500. The smallest track on the Sprint Cup schedule is shaped like a paperclip - with long straightaways, tight corners and a narrow groove - and Busch has gone close without actually seeing victory lane, recording four top ten finishes in eight Sprint Cup starts at the 0.526-mile oval.
As a result, he has identified four key areas to focus on as he vies for their third Sprint Cup victory of 2009.
“It's just a short racetrack and you've got to try to have a good car, but it's hard to have a good car there with the field as tight as it is," he noted, "Qualifying up front seems to help out a little bit. We know who the guys are who are going to be tough there and, really, there's nothing that you can change about that racetrack to stay out of trouble at times. Basically, you can be leading the race and have a wreck in front of you while you are trying to lap some guys. Really, it's no different than Bristol last week.
“At the short tracks, you really like to qualify up front, especially at Martinsville. It's hard to pass there, like Loudon, and sometimes pit strategy helps. You can't really do much to get yourself positioned up front, and you would rather qualify up front for those.”
Martinsville requires a total team effort and, if everything comes together with minimal problems, Busch may well find victory at his 21st different track, and earn Martinsville's traditional grandfather clock trophy from track president Clay Campbell for the very first time.
“I've really struggled at Martinsville in the past," he admitted, "Last year, we really struggled at all the flat tracks, and that's something that [crew chief] Steve [Addington] and all the guys at JGR have worked really hard on in the off-season.
"The best finish I think I've had there is a fourth in Cup and a fourth in Trucks, but I've got two chances this weekend. Hopefully, we can get one of them. Last year, we had brake issues at both races, so we went and tested at 'Little Rock' to try and get our brakes squared away and we found out how to pop right-front beads over and over. We fixed that problem - we used to pop them in 46 to 50 laps, and now we can go 80 laps straight and not see a darn issue.
“I was just over at JGR Tuesday to be a part of the victory lunch from the Las Vegas race, and those guys know that I trust everything they do. I truly believe they are the best on pit-road so, when they make a mistake, it shocks me. They know that I give that same effort out on the racetrack - and, when I make a mistake, it shocks them too.
"You'll have some days where the guys on pit-road just have an off-day or an off-stop. I have off days - I wrecked in Vegas, for no reason, 25 laps into the Nationwide race, and that's 100 per cent my fault. It all boils down to being a team. You win as a team and lose as a team.”