Kyle Busch is the only driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the history of Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
Of course, in reality, there’s only been one Sprint Cup race ever contested at the 1.5-mile oval in the Bluegrass State as the series ran its inaugural even there last July.
Regardless of how many Sprint Cup races have been run at Kentucky, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red, White and Blue Toyota, has been quite the top-notch thoroughbred in the state perhaps best known for its world-class horse-racing industry. The talented 27-year-old has notched victories at Kentucky in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. Add his 2003 ARCA series win at Kentucky and Busch has been victorious in four racing divisions and has made quite a Kentucky home of his own in the Bluegrass State’s second-most-famous victory lane.
At the ripe age of 18, Busch dominated the 2003 ARCA race at Kentucky while competing for Hendrick Motorsports. He led a race-high 91 laps en route to the victory.
He returned to the Bluegrass State the following year and found victory lane again, this time in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at the 1.5-mile oval. In all, Busch has one win, three top-fives, and has led 311 laps in five Nationwide Series starts there.
He also won last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race to give him three top-10 finishes and 117 laps led in three Truck Series starts at the speedway.
This weekend’s special Red, White and Blue M&M’S paint scheme Busch will pilot in search of his second consecutive Sprint Cup win at Kentucky is in support of the limited-edition Red, White and Blue-only bags of M&M’s now in stores. The new patriotic blend is designed to be the perfect snack during the summer holidays of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Busch carried the patriotic scheme during his third-place run in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May and will sport it again this weekend in honor of the Fourth of July holiday to be celebrated next week.
In addition to Busch’s stellar career statistics at Kentucky, his crew chief Dave Rogers sports a record that is equally as impressive as his current driver. While Rogers’ bio lists his hometown as Marshfield, Vt., the 38-year-old crew chief absolutely owned Kentucky Speedway in 2008 and 2009 while calling the shots for JGR’s No. 20 Nationwide Series team and driver Joey Logano. In their two Nationwide Series starts together at Kentucky, Logano and Rogers won both races from the pole and led a total of 96 laps. The 2008 victory was not only the first of many for the tandem of Rogers and Logano, it was also Logano’s first career Nationwide Series win in just his third start in the series after the young driver celebrated his 18th birthday just one month prior.
When Busch takes the green flag for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 in his M&M’s Red, White and Blue colors, he’ll go to the whip once again in hopes of adding to his already stellar record in a multitude of stock-car divisions at the 1.5-mile racetrack. After all, there’s certainly something special about being able to call yourself the top thoroughbred for the second straight year at Kentucky.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Are you looking forward to going back to Kentucky?
“Last year, we were really fast at Kentucky with our M&M’s Camry. We unloaded really well and we were quick. We had that open test day there and we were fast. We were fastest in practice and then qualifying actually got rained out, so it gave us the automatic pole, but I still say we won the pole. It was a great race for us. We started up front, we led some laps and Kurt (Busch) led some laps. It was cool to battle with Kurt for a while. I remember Kurt was up there, (Brad) Keselowski was there, Jimmie Johnson got up there, and David Reutimann finished second there at the end. There were lot of good cars and a lot of really fast guys who we had to deal with and race hard with, and I’d expect the same this year, as well.”
Is it more challenging to only go to Kentucky once a year?
“I think it makes it more challenging. You’ve definitely got to go through your notes and find the things that made you good there and watch the film – no different than a football player studying film to see what he can do to be better. For me, you do some of those same things. Kentucky is a racetrack where we used to only go once with the Nationwide cars, anyway, so I was kind of used to that. I ran the truck, the Nationwide car and the Cup car, so I got a lot more experience on the racetrack through the weekend. Then, during the race, I saw that some of that may have paid off for us in the Cup race.”
Do you think you have less of an advantage this year because some other guys who have run just Sprint Cup at Kentucky have raced there now?
“I think so. While I haven’t probably run the most races at Kentucky, I probably have to have just about as much experience on that track as anyone. I think Joey (Logano) was expected to run well there with his history in the Nationwide Series there, and the way those guys have been running lately has been impressive. Overall, any time you are able to get experience like last year, like the Jeff Gordons and Jimmie Johnsons, guys who haven’t run a race there before, that’s going to add to their knowledge base and what is going to make them better there the next time around. We don’t have the same sort of advantage we felt like we had going into last year.”
How does it feel to know you’ll always be the Inaugural Sprint Cup winner at Kentucky for the rest of your career?
“I think it’s cool. You look at some of the new venues we’ve been to over the years and Jeff Gordon got to win a number of inaugural races, like the Brickyard, Fontana, and Kansas. He was always the guy who was known to figure out places the fastest, but we were able to be the ones to do that last year at Kentucky. There aren’t many opportunities these days to go to a new venue, so for us being able to win the first race there was extra special and, to put that M&M’s car in victory lane. We’d love to be able to come back there with our Red, White, and Blue M&M’s car and still keep us as the only winners there thus far in Sprint Cup.”
What was the key to finding the right setup to win last year at Kentucky?
“I think the biggest thing was just all the on-track time we had to get ready last year. At the same time, we unloaded so close to what we ended up racing, we were able to try a whole lot of things in-between. My experience there, along with Dave’s (Rogers, crew chief) experience there made a huge difference to where we weren’t far off when we unloaded, and it helped us try a bunch of stuff during testing and then practice. The biggest thing that helped us was the open test day on Thursday, with Truck Series activities going on, as well. There was a lot of track time we had that week and, when you come to a new venue, that’s very valuable. Physically, on Thursday of the weekend last year, it was hot. It’s hot in Kentucky in June, so it was no cakewalk. I remember after I won the truck race that night, I was pretty worn out. The cool part about it is, Saturday you can rest a bit and get your body where you need it to be. We ran up front the entire night and didn’t have to fight back in traffic, so the car handled really well.”
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