CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyle Busch left little doubt his confidence is just fine during pre-race introductions at Bristol Motor Speedway, where the track allows drivers to say whatever they want to the crowd.
Most drivers play it safe by stating their name and hometowns, while others add a greeting to the crowd and maybe a little bit of personality.
Busch went all out beginning with the Nationwide Series race on Saturday when he grabbed the microphone and simply stated, “You know who I am.”
Arrogant? Sure. But he backed it up by grabbing his fifth Nationwide victory at Bristol, which tied him with Kevin Harvick for most in the series. Busch, by the way, has a series-record 53 wins, and two in the last 4 weeks after going winless last season.
He was even brasher the next day before the Sprint Cup race.
Grinning as he strutted down Bristol’s version of the red carpet, Busch name-dropped the track’s all-time winner: “I may not be no Darrell Waltrip, but I sure as heck don’t need no introduction,” before dropping the mic and walking off.
He came up short in his bid to sweep the weekend, but staged a wicked battle in the closing laps of the race to snag second place from Brad Keselowski. He left Bristol with a win, a runner-up finish, and a track record in Sprint Cup qualifying.
Not a bad day’s work for a guy coming off the worst season of his career.
So what’s changed? It could be something as simple as driving Joe Gibbs Racing cars again in the Nationwide Series.
“As far as last year goes, there was plenty of opportunities to win that just didn’t come,” Busch said. “For whatever reason, it was just a terrible year, whether it’s luck related or whatever. This year driving JGR cars on Saturday and on Sunday, I think that’s a benefit.”
It sure looks that way through the first month of the season.
A year ago, when Busch went winless in Nationwide for the first time since his 2003 debut, he drove all 22 races for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports. He came close to Victory Lane many times, but never made it all the way there.
The frustration spilled over to the Cup side, where he was in JGR cars but managed only one win – his lowest total since 2007 – and missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Back in JGR cars in the Nationwide Series this season, he’s got two wins through four races and is running a lot better in Cup. He was in the top three in the Daytona 500 when his engine failed, finished fourth at Las Vegas, took second at Bristol, and goes to California this weekend ranked 10th in points.
“We’ve had really fast race cars everywhere we’ve gone so far,” Busch said. “Fontana is another place where I’ve always fared well over the years, and I’m hoping we can finally get that victory we’ve been looking for this weekend.”
Born: May 2, 1985
Hometown: Las Vegas
Career wins: 24 in Sprint Cup, 53 in Nationwide, 30 in Truck Series
FYI: His 53 Nationwide wins is a series record. … Won the 2009 Nationwide season title. … Was 2004 Busch Series (now Nationwide) Rookie of the Year. … Was 2005 Nextel Cup (now Sprint Cup) Rookie of the Year.