Looking back a decade ago, Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway completed what many thought would be its final NASCAR Xfinity Series event. The 300-mile race on July 23, 2011, was won by Carl Edwards and featured just five drivers who are fulltime competitors in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, and Kyle Busch.
In addition to the drivers who raced that day, four others have competed at 1.333-mile concrete oval during their careers who race fulltime today – Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, and Michael McDowell.
When it comes to life, in general, and especially auto racing, it’s never good to say never. After a 10-year hiatus, not only is the Xfinity Series returning to Nashville Superspeedway, along with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that used to compete there regularly, but the NASCAR Cup Series will be making its debut at the concrete oval during Sunday’s Ally 300.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 PEDIGREE Foundation Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has not only had extensive racing history at Nashville, he knows his way to victory lane there, as well. The two-time Cup Series champion competed in three different series at Nashville – Xfinity Series, Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series. He made his Nashville debut in 2003 and brought home the victory in his only ARCA start there. He was also two-for-two in both his Truck Series starts, with both wins coming from the pole in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 win also happened to be the first-ever victory for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.
Busch has the most experience at Nashville in the Xfinity Series, having started 10 races there from 2004 through 2011 and scoring four top-five finishes, including a 2009 victory in his JGR Toyota.
In addition to the vast Nashville Superspeedway experience on Busch’s resume, Busch and the No. 18 have their first chance to experience the homecoming of sorts for primary sponsor PEDIGREE and the PEDIGREE Foundation, whose Nashville-area headquarters are just up the road from where racing will return this weekend. Busch’s PEDIGREE Foundation Camry paint scheme will feature adoptable dogs from the Nashville area.
As part of the collaboration, Mars Petcare’s BETTER CITIES FOR PETS Program and PEDIGREE Foundation will host adoption events in Nashville and Charlotte, North Carolina, during the race weekend and will cover all adoption fees for any pets that find loving homes from June 18 to 20. To promote the events, Busch will visit the Humane Society of Charlotte to meet a series of adoptable pets before heading to Nashville for the race weekend. Fans can learn more about how to help by visiting pedigreefoundation.org.
So as Busch heads to Nashville to compete in the historic first race there in NASCAR’s top series, he’s hoping he’ll have an advantage over the competition with his prior experience there as he attempts to become the first driver to win a Cup Series race at the tricky concrete track in his doggone return to Music City.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 PEDIGREE Foundation Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
|How do you feel about the Cup Series finally scheduling a race at Nashville Superspeedway? “I think it’s a cool racetrack and a cool venue. I raced there a lot over the years in the ARCA Series, the Camping World Truck Series, as well as the Xfinity Series. I’ve had my fair share of races there and also my fair share of wins there. To now have the Cup Series go there, it’s going to be interesting to try and remember everything that made us successful there. It’s probably going to be watching some old-school videos from there to remember what that place was all about. I think it also fits with our sport because NASCAR and country music are kind of synonymous with each other. It’s a great opportunity to rekindle all of that after having the banquet there a few years ago, and now we get to go back and race there with our PEDIGREE Foundation Camry. Really proud to have the PEDIGREE Foundation on board this weekend and all their work to help dogs find forever homes. I’ll be visiting the Humane Society in Charlotte this week and we’ll have several adoptable dogs on our paint scheme this weekend at Nashville.” |
What do you remember about the Nashville Superspeedway track and how it raced a decade ago? “I just remember the concrete racetrack and, as racetracks age, they develop their own character. Nashville had pretty new concrete when we were there for those years. Since we’ve not been there in a while, it will be interesting to find out what has changed and see what new bumps are there and what new things have kind of come up over the years. Obviously, so many advancements have been made since I was there last time. We were going pretty fast and we are bringing the low-downforce package there, and there are some things you are going to have to pick up on very quickly versus when I was there running Trucks or Xfinity cars. Those were some pretty high-downforce racecars that helped you stick to the racetrack a lot better, so I would anticipate there will be some slick turns there when we get there this week.”
What are you expecting the PJ1 to be like at Nashville this weekend?“There are different strengths of PJ1, and there is a weaker one that’s called resin, and that’s what I think they put down in order to get some rubber down on the racetrack. When we had the NASCAR test that was there, I think my brother was there, Christopher Bell was there, and Chase Briscoe. Just three cars were there, so that makes it hard to get the track rubbered in and do a legitimate tire test, so they can get some rubber down on the track to try and get a baseline for the tire they want to bring back. Whether they end up continuing to spray that or not is to be determined. We’ll see what they decided to do before we get there.”
Over the last several years, did you see the possibility of the Cup Series going back to Nashville? “I did. I sort of read between the lines a bit when the brought the banquet to Nashville. You could kind of see the excitement it brought to the area, and you have a racetrack there already, and now they have it on the schedule. Those things were definitely in the back of my mind. The track is a place I’ve had some success at and not a lot of us have raced there, so I’m really looking forward to getting out there in the Xfinity race and the Cup race with our PEDIGREE Foundation Camry.”