Of all the tracks that might seem suited to Kyle Busch’s rough and rowdy driving style, Martinsville Speedway would be high on the list.
The half-mile flat track welcomes the aggressive nature that fits into Busch’s push-the-button approach.
Oddly, however, Busch has never visited victory lane at Martinsville. The track is one of only three on the current Sprint Cup schedule – in addition to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway – still holding Sprint Cup zeroes for Busch.
He finished second in last October’s Martinsville race. In Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500, he tries to go one better.
“We were so close last fall and right on Jimmie’s (Johnson) bumper for the win,” Busch said. “I’ve led a bunch of laps there, but we just haven’t been able to hold it for the end of the 500 laps. It’s certainly a race track that you can be leading the race and think you’ve got a shot to win the thing in the last 30 laps and then getting beat on from behind and getting moved out of the way.
“It’s certainly a race track that’s indicative that, if you’re just a little bit off, then the guys are going to be right on your rear bumper and trying to get by you. For us, it’s been a challenge, but we’re getting better at it and learning some more as we go along.”
In 16 Cup starts at Martinsville, Busch has seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes.
“It’s just a tough place because you’re so hard on brakes, but your minimum speed there – everybody’s is – the same, pretty much,” Busch said. “Except there are a couple of guys who will get a half-mile-an-hour faster through the center of the corner, and that is the difference between the pole speed and being dead last.
“You’re looking to find things that will make your car just that much faster there. You want to drive into the corner one foot deeper than that other guy. You want to step on the gas one foot sooner than that other guy and you want to roll a half-mile-an-hour better than that other guy. That’s why it’s so finicky and so hard there, because everybody runs so tight that any little thing you can find it can help a lot.
“Martinsville is not like any other race track that I’ve ever raced on. Not even close.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.