News & Media

Busch in need of a little help at Martinsville

April 14, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Half-mile paperclip not been as kind to the otherwise short-track master

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- All half-mile race tracks are not the same. Ask Kyle Busch.

Busch has high-banked Bristol down cold but he's never finished higher than fourth at flat-track Martinsville. On the other hand, Denny Hamlin seems to have all but mastered the .526-mile paperclip. So how much information gets shared between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates this weekend?

Kyle Busch

Short-track results
Laps Led1,371120624
Avg. Start20.216.212.5
Avg. Fin.8.716.75.2

"I've talked to [Hamlin] a little bit about it," Busch said Friday. "It's kind of like me at Bristol. I might not tell everybody everything that I know so I don't know how much Denny is really telling me. All I can pay attention to is how much [crew chief Dave Rogers] gives me."

And that's where most of the sharing happens. Rogers and fellow Gibbs crew chiefs Mike Ford and Greg Zipadelli have access to all the data, and it's up to them to make specific changes to the cars.

"We all share our information all day long and it's just a matter of applying the right information for my driving style," Busch said. "We do talk, and we do talk about different things. I will give Denny a lot of credit. That's why I'm a lot better here than I've been in the past.

"But I think a lot of it still has to do with basic car setup and how that is. So we've gone closer to Denny's way and migrated his way, which I think has helped us and just gives me a more consistent feel every time we come here."

It worked well in Friday's first practice, as Busch was quickest with a lap of 95.617 mph around the tight, flat Martinsville half-mile on a chilly, wind-whipped April Fool's Day.

However, things went from rosy to thorny for the Gibbs guys 22 minutes into Happy Hour, when Joey Logano spun hard into the Turn 3 wall and heavily damaged the rear end of his No. 20 Toyota. His crew was already unloading the backup as he maneuvered his way slowly back into the infield, and he was able to get back out and run a few laps.

Dennis Setzer wasn't as lucky. With 25 minutes remaining in the final practice, his No. 92 Dodge wiggled under braking, spun and walloped the wall with the left side of the car. He climbed out and inspected the damage, which was significant.

"The brakes went out," Setzer said after being checked and released from the infield medical care facility. He said the team did not have a backup car available this weekend.

Some teams used the final few minutes of Happy Hour to make mock qualifying runs, with David Ragan putting up a top lap of 96.268 mph. After cars qualify Saturday, they won't hit the track again until race time on Sunday.

Busch heads for Bristol with a feeling of invincibility. Martinsville, however, is a different story.

"Here at Martinsville, I come in here with a top-five mentality," Busch said. "I know I can run top-five here. I've done it however many times and I've been really good here in the past where I probably should have finished better than what I have but not quite got there.

"A place like Richmond? The same way. I expect to go there and I expect to run top-three at Richmond. You always want to go to the race track to win, but you give some realistic expectations first. I feel like, yeah, we can win this weekend but we're going to start with a top-five."

Busch has four fourth-place finishes at Martinsville, but he's also finished 22nd or worse four times. So Martinsville has been hit or miss. He's hoping Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 is a hit.

"Martinsville is a challenging track in itself already anyways," Busch said. "With the short-track feel that we had a couple weeks ago at Bristol, that's always fun for us. It seems to be a place we can really run well at."

The biggest issue for Busch is getting comfortable quickly at a track which requires an odd balance between aggressiveness and patience.

"[It's] just kind of a tough little tricky race track," Busch said. "Still, qualifying kind of eludes us, but in the race once we kind of get into a rhythm and get moving, it seems to go our way. We finished fourth here last year so I'm looking forward to trying to improve on that.

"You can almost guarantee the top two spots will be either [Hamlin] or [Jimmie Johnson], so everybody else is racing for third. It seems like I can't even get to third yet, but we'll see what we can figure out here this weekend."