Driver Kyle Busch (18) waits during Sprint Cup practice Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch never needs much motivation to climb inside a race car.
Whether it's a Late Model on a Wednesday night at South Boston or his No. 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup ride on a Sunday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch is always in his element when he's on an oval hitting his marks and clicking off laps.
But after winning 64 Nationwide Series races, many of them in dominant fashion, many fans ask what benefit Busch could possibly get from spanking fields filled primarily with developmental drivers on Saturday afternoons.
"I think the biggest thing is sponsorship dollars," Busch said during his media availability at BMS on Friday. "Obviously, Monster Energy pays a lot of money for me to drive their car in the Nationwide Series."
But even with the hefty paydays the Nationwide Series provides, Busch was quick to argue that the series benefits from his presence more than he benefits from racing on Saturdays.
When Busch secured the deal with Monster Energy, for example, he said he was able to bring a sponsor into the sport that may not have been interested on getting involved with NASCAR with a lesser-known driver.
"We went to Monster and asked them what they wanted to do, and they said they'd be interested in a full Nationwide deal, so we took it," Busch said. "We did it and that's why I run Nationwide.
"If I didn't have those guys, then I'm not so sure that they would feel confident being in the sport whatsoever."
Busch also pointed out that his involvement, which includes a stable sponsorship deal, adds to the overall health of the series.
"At least it's another team out there that's running around and is in business," Busch said. "It's not necessarily just for me. There's 16 or 17 guys on that team with the 54 car that have jobs because of that sponsor."
One group of people that rarely criticizes Busch for running the Nationwide races are the young drivers in the series looking to move up to a Cup ride. For competitors like Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott and Brian Scott who are looking to make a name for themselves, nothing can pad a resume like the opportunity to outrun Busch in Saturday's Drive to Stop Diabetes 300.
Kyle Larson learned that firsthand last season when he went toe to toe with Busch at BMS last March before losing by a couple feet. He parlayed that runner-up finish and several other good runs into a full-time ride Cup ride with Chip Ganassi Racing.
HEAVY BURDEN: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s fast start has left fans, pundits and track promoters alike talking about Earnhardt's ability to elevate NASCAR to a new level.
From Earnhardt's standpoint, the idea that he can do more to carry the sport than, say, teammate and six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, is a bit farfetched.
"It's just very uncomfortable because I don't have the accolades and the hardware that a lot of these guys have, like a championship and things like that," Earnhardt said. "It's a very uncomfortable position to be put in. I don't think it's realistic. All the drivers have a role in that and they are actively doing that."
DELIVERY DRAMA: Matt Kenseth and his wife, Katie, are expecting a baby, which could be born at any time.
Since his Sundays are usually pretty busy, Kenseth said he has asked his wife if she could have the baby on a Monday.
But with a bleak weather forecast, Kenseth isn't exactly sure what request to put in.
"We kind of had to change that around a little bit because it's supposed to rain on Sunday," he said. "She was praying for Monday so we'll have to change that to Tuesday if it's going to be this week. Oh, it's supposed to snow Monday, so I guess if we can't race then we can still have her on Monday."
STUCK IN NEUTRAL: The subject of payback often comes up at BMS, a classic short track tailor-made for a driver to exact revenge against someone who has wronged them before.
Johnson was asked on Friday whether there was a driver out there whom he wanted to wreck but never got the chance. Johnson recalled a beef he had with Matt Kenseth back when both drivers were racing on the Nationwide Series circuit.
Johnson said Kenseth had wrecked him a time or two, but when Kenseth wrecked Johnson's car one day in Dover, it pushed Johnson over the edge.
"I was sitting on the apron waiting for him to come back around and I had the car in gear ready to dump the clutch and harpoon him," Johnson recalled. "When I dumped the clutch to take off, the fuel cell was on the ground and my rear tires were up off the ground and I couldn't go anywhere.
"I've teased him about it since. Matt does not remember that thing, but I do."
So should fans look out for retribution on Sunday?
"We are well past that now," Johnson said. "There is no revenge there, but it's fun to harass him about it."comments powered by Disqus