It’s a familiar story at Bristol Motor Speedway.
During pre-race introductions, Kyle Busch is serenaded by boos and jeers.
Fueled by those critics, Busch then storms to another victory and punctuates his triumph with a signature bow.
The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion has more immediate concerns for today’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at BMS.
“Right now, we’re trying to put on a show and allow fans to watch it from the safety of their homes. When the fans get back, they will be booing just as loud as normal,” said Busch during a Zoom media conference this week.
Busch has recorded a total of 21 wins at Bristol across NASCAR’s top three series, including eight in Cup.
According to Busch, his secret for success at concrete-coated BMS involves paying attention to detail.
“Bristol is a finicky place,” Busch said. “You’re used to running on asphalt every week, so the concrete can throw you for a loop. As that place ages, there are nuances with the racing surface and the line. Getting your eyes on the race track is important.”
Busch overcame a variety of obstacles en route to winning the Food City 500 at BMS last April.
After surviving a crash on the opening lap and dealing with a mangled rear bumper, Busch finally took control after a restart with 15 laps remaining.
Kurt Busch chased his brother to the finish but came up short on two passing attempts.
The post-race comments by Kurt have since been replayed countless times.
“I wanted that one bad,” Kurt said. “I was willing to wreck my little brother to win. He had already won seven times here.”
Kyle offered a wry smile after surviving the high-profile family skirmish.
“It was fun to battle out the brother there,” Kyle said. “I know we didn’t quite get side-side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I got up there and was able to make some ground.”
With the victory, Kyle tied Lee Petty for 10th on the all-time Cup win list with 54.
The challenge for Kyle and all drivers today will be finding a comfort zone despite having no practice or qualifying.
Busch didn’t seem concerned about solving the latest Bristol puzzle during his Zoom conference.
“With the success we’ve had over the years, I feel really good about it,” Busch said. “We make a lot of adjustments when we get there, and we’re fine-tuning a lot of different things. We’re just being nitpicky to make sure we have a fast race car.”
Following a random draw that was based on various team and owner point groupings, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola will start from the front row today.
Kyle Busch drew the No. 7 starting spot. And his first goal will be to figure out the PJ-1 traction compound applied to the bottom four feet in both corners of the track.
“You’re going to run the bottom for a while with the traction compound. As that wears, you’re going to move around and end up at the top,” Busch said. “Being able to understand those adjustments during practice is a big deal. We won’t have that, so we will have to get after it at the start of the race.”
The other name on the marquee today is Chase Elliott. The man voted as NASCAR’s most popular driver the past two years has emerged as a rival to Busch and he’s coming off a Cup victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday night.
“We battled hard and finally got our car good enough there at the end,” Elliott said. “I’m not sure that we had it exactly perfect, but the guys did a great job making good adjustments.”
In the Cup race at Darlington last Wednesday, Elliott was furious after getting wrecked by Kyle Busch in the final laps.
Drivers and crew members have been pushed to extremes with the hectic schedule since NASCAR resumed, but Elliott said endurance will not be an issue today.
“I feel really good,” Elliott said. “I tried to stay biking and doing things throughout those two months off. Going back to Darlington where it was hot and then coming into the 600 in Charlotte, it kind of just threw us back right to the wolves.
“I think it was really a good thing to get some hot races and long races in right off the bat and just jump right to it.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will give the command to start engines today at BMS.
The attention will then soon turn to Kyle Busch. With a mix of cunning and aggression, he’s won the past two spring Cup races.
Without his loud detractors in the stands, Busch must generate his own motivational fuel on his latest charge.
“It’s going to be way different,” Busch said. “We certainly miss our fans. They’re the ones who drive our sport and bring the passion.”
“Getting back to the race track is what drivers have been striving for. The iRacing online was something fun to do to keep the show going, but nothing is like getting on the real track.”