Kyle Busch up and down on 1.5-mile tracks this season

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When it comes to the intermediate tracks this season, Kyle Busch has been either at the front of the field or behind the pit wall.

On home turf, “Rowdy” finished fourth at the first 1.5-mile oval of the year in Las Vegas and then scored the win at the next mile-and-a-half at Texas. But his last two runs on this type of track have ended in calamity; a crash with Joey Logano relegated him to a 38th-place finish at Kansas and in last month’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, Busch’s engine let go, saddling him with another 38th-place result.

However, Kentucky Speedway represents a great opportunity for him to reach another peak on the mile-and-a-halves. He won the inaugural Cup race there in 2011 and led 118 laps in last year’s Quaker State 400 before finishing 10th. He’s also won at Kentucky in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the lower-level ARCA stock car series.

“I like running here at Kentucky – why I run well here, I don’t know,” he said on Thursday. “It’s an interesting race track and it’s certainly challenging and tough, and it brings out the better drivers…You have to have a good-handling race car around here on the bumps, but you can detune the speed of your race car to get over the bumps better and slow your car down, which is not very good.

“You have to find the happy medium of that and I think [crew chief] Dave Rogers does a really good job of being able to help me with that as well as just being able to keep the speed in the car.”

Busch’s crew chief has his own winning pedigree at Kentucky as well. Rogers called Joey Logano’s 2008 and 2009 Nationwide victories there when the young driver was still with Joe Gibbs Racing; the former victory was Logano’s first triumph in NASCAR’s No. 2 series.

Tonight’s race will mark the end of a tripleheader weekend at Kentucky for Busch, who finished fifth in last night’s NNS race and third in Thursday night’s Truck event.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”