Kyle Busch came back to Texas Motor Speedway a rock star.
To the cheers of 4,500 elementary students, he dropped down in a helicopter on the infield. He congratulated the winner of a reading contest who got her design turned into a real race car.
He signed autographs and posed for pictures.
Then he got to field questions from reporters about how he won two races on this weekend at TMS last year.
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His Friday morning rocked.
“It’s certainly a packed house here this morning!” he said to the students. “It’s really exciting to see that there’s this many kids that are excited to have the opportunity of reading.”
For himself, Busch has the opportunity Sunday to repeat his win from last year when he takes the green flag in the Duck Commander 500. Last April, he won the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events at TMS, setting a track qualifying record in winning the Sprint Cup pole.
There’s still a little buzz left over in him from that weekend.
“There are certain times when you’re good at some races and you don’t have to put pressure on yourself because you know you’re good at that track. You can do it,” he said.
“So yeah, this could be one of those weekends. But you still never know, with all the new rules and everything.”
Busch was so good at TMS last year, the track named him its racer of the year and recognized him at an awards banquet Thursday night. Busch led 91 laps in winning the Nationwide race and 170 laps in winning the Cup race last April. His qualifying speed of 196.229 mph set the track record.
“I used to come here and dread coming here,” he said. “I couldn’t figure it out. But it definitely has gotten a lot better since then.
“I feel like I’m pretty good here, whether it’s Nationwide or Cup. We’ve got a good basis of what to do here and what to work on and how to make our car better for the 500 miles.”
Times have not always been good for Busch at TMS.
In November 2011, he had to sit out the Sprint Cup race as punishment for intentionally wrecking a competitor in the truck race.
A year before that, he was fined $25,000 for an obscene gesture on pit road.
But overall, this is a good place for the 28-year-old Las Vegas driver. From 2008 to 2010 at TMS, he won five consecutive races in a Nationwide car.
And the memory from last spring, when he won at sponsor Interstate Batteries’ home track, lingers pleasantly.
“We had some really good speed here,” he said. “So bringing it back this time, seeing if we can’t have that speed again and seeing if we can’t get another win like we did last year, that’d be nice.”
It would rock.
Duck Commander 500
2 p.m. Sunday
Texas Motor Speedway
Three to watch
Kevin Harvick. In qualifying, laid down the fastest lap ever in NASCAR at TMS.
Jimmie Johnson. Qualified poorly, but says his car in race trim is fast.
Joey Logano. Third and fifth last two starts at TMS, may be figuring it out.
RaceWeek at TMS
9 a.m. Gate 6 opens for Garage Party (season ticket holders only)
10 a.m. Gates, luxury suites and Victory Lane Club Open
2 p.m. Duck Commander 500 (334 Laps, 501 miles; KDFW/Ch. 4, KRLD/105.3 FM)
• David Ragan, 9:45 a.m., Speedway Club Grandstands, Texas Motor Speedway