HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 03: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Z-Line Designs Toyota, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #33 Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 3, 2011 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR) R:MerlinGetty_Photos123697281.jpg

Kyle Busch happy to be back ‘home’

SHARE Kyle Busch happy to be back ‘home’
SHARE Kyle Busch happy to be back ‘home’

When Kyle Busch comes to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet for Sunday’s GEICO 400, the first of NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Busch may get sentimental. He got married in Chicago on New Year’s Eve and has family in the area.

“My mom and dad were born and raised in Chicago, and my wife is from Indiana,” Busch said. “It’s great to come back, but then you have to get back to racing.”

Busch and Kevin Harvick enter the Chase leading the Sprint Cup series with 2,012 points, three points ahead of four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon and six points ahead of 2003 champion Matt Kenseth.

“We start out with a great momentum on our side this week in Chicago,” Busch said. “You approach the Chase the same way as you have the beginning of the year. Everyone is calm when we get to Daytona, so there’s no reason to treat this any differently. You want to come out with a clean slate and race for a championship.”

Besides running in the GEICO 400, Busch also will drive in the Camping World Truck Series Fast Five 225 Friday night. But don’t look for a Busch tripleheader at Chicagoland because he will not race in the Nationwide Dollar General 300 on Saturday. Busch opted for the truck race over Nationwide in hopes of closing the gap in the owner’s standings with Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI). Busch, whose Kyle Busch Motorsports team won the truck owner’s championship in 2010, is 36 points behind leader KHI and has a series leading five truck victories in his No. 18 Toyota Tundra.

Busch and his Cup crew chief Dave Rogers are optimistic going into the GEICO 400. Rogers said his team tweaked its program for 1.5-mile racetracks, like Chicagoland, and said there will be a different setup for Busch’s No. 18 Toyota Camry. The GEICO 400 will be a day race instead of a night one, even though Chicagoland has run night Cup races for the past three consecutive years.

“We’re going through with a different setup because last year we didn’t have much speed [at Chicagoland],” Rogers said. “Kyle was tied to one lane, so we’re going with a new package. Having day and night races changes [the track’s surface] a lot.”

Busch, 26, has won four races, but Rogers was most impressed with how Busch ran at Michigan on Aug. 21. Busch’s other wins came at Kentucky (July 9), Richmond (April 30) and Bristol (March 20).

“Michigan was a statisfying win because it’s not one of my best tracks,” Busch said. “They are repaving it now, so it will be cool to get back there next year.”

But Busch has had luck at the D-shaped oval in Joliet – winning the 2008 Cup race – and Busch said he feels more comfortable racing at Chicagoland than at the mile oval in Loudon, N.H., the previous Chase opener.

Busch was also the points leader heading into the 2008 Chase, but flamed out and finished 10th. Besides getting redemption for 2008, Busch would like nothing more than to unseat five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

“Certainly [Johnson’s championships] are great for our sport but they’re also hurtful,” Busch said. “Jimmie’s been good and he’s one of the best out there. You can’t take anything away from [Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus]. We’ve just got to make sure we can make it all the way to Homestead [Miami, Nov. 20] with a chance and do the best we can there and come out with a victory.”

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