Can Kyle Busch capitalize on home-track advantage?
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
Kyle Busch is treading in unfamiliar territory.
Granted, there have only been two points-paying races run out of a 36-race schedule, so there is plenty of season left for a driver to change his fortune. However, after two races, Busch finds himself situated all the way back in 33rd place.
That's not a place he's familiar with, or comfortable with.
Therefore, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to his hometown of Las Vegas for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 (3:00 p.m. ET, FOX), Busch is looking for a little home-field magic to rub off on him and his No. 18 M&M's Toyota.
In eight full seasons of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing heading into 2013, Busch has never been this far back of the lead after just two races. In 2005, his first full-time season, he was 32nd after the second race. However, it's been all uphill ever since, never placing lower the 18th (2009) after the first two races.
In 2008 and 2011, Busch was actually perched atop the points standings heading into the third race weekend.
For Busch, being this far back in arrears this early on in this season definitely creates some pressure for him to get back into contention, especially when he's more accustomed to running near the front and celebrating in Victory Lane. Couple that with the pressure to achieve in front of family and friends. It's pretty daunting.
"Vegas always means a little bit more pressure - more pressure on myself - just because it's the hometown and you want to win there," said Busch. "Thankfully, I have won there and I've knocked that one off the last, but certainly you want to win there every year."
A win for Busch this Sunday would help ease those pressures, both in the points standings and among his hometown fans. It would also go a long way in putting his 34th- and 23rd-place finishes in the first two races behind him.
He's visited Victory Lane once before at the 1.5-mile track, when he won from the pole in 2009. The win propelled him from 18th in the standings heading into the weekend to sixth. He's hoping for more of the same magic this weekend.
"To go out there and to run a smooth race and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that's what it's all about," said Busch.
"It was awesome in 2009... just the feeling of a lifetime. I told everyone it would be just like another race, but it really meant a lot more than that when I got to Victory Lane."
Perhaps a visit to the "Diamond in the Desert" is just what Busch needs to start his ascension to more familiar grounds.
ALLGAIER HAS HOT HAND IN VEGAS
Although Justin Allgaier has never won a NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he certainly has a winning combination at the 1.5-mile track in Sin City.
When the NASCAR Nationwide starting field hits the track for Saturday's Sam's Town 300 (4:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Allgaier is sure to be among the frontrunners contending for the win.
In four starts at the track, he has never finished outside the top eight or qualified outside the top 13. His best finish was a runner-up performance in 2011. He also boasts the highest average driver rating (106.3) among drivers with four starts at the track.
His success belies the fact that racing at Vegas can be a bit challenging for drivers, especially for those with the wrong race strategy.
"The track is pretty line-sensitive so you have to time your passes well, but it also usually comes down to fuel mileage," said Allgaier. "It's going to be a great race and Las Vegas always puts on a good show, and I don't think this weekend is going to be any different."
If it sounds like he's excited about the upcoming race, he has a good reason for that. After the first two races of the season, Allgaier heads to Phoenix tied for the points lead with Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish holds the tiebreaker due to his second-place finish in the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona.
With seventh-place and third-place finishes at Daytona and Phoenix, respectively, Allgaier looks to continue his hot streak at Las Vegas and break away from Hornish and the rest of the NASCAR Nationwide drivers in the standings.
Whether or not Allgaier wins on Saturday, it's a safe bet he'll be near the front of the pack, barring any accidents.