HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – On Monday, Kyle Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and several members of his No. 18 M&M’s Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team headed to Charlotte to help build a home at a Habitat for Humanity build site.
The driver of the No. 18 M’Prove America™ Toyota and his team have also been building their way toward a long-awaited Sprint Cup win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest event. With 10 top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Busch feels his team is closer than ever to hoisting his first trophy there.
But first, the team hoisted trusses, hammers and nails at the job site Monday. The visit was part of the special M&M’s Red, White, and Blue scheme that will adorn the No. 18 Toyota this weekend in support of the M&M’s M’Prove America campaign, a year-long partnership with Habitat designed to fund construction of new Habitat homes across the United States.
Fans can join Busch and M&M’s by pledging to volunteer their time and talents at Habitat for Humanity build sites across the country at www.mproveamerica.com. Also, fans can support the M’Prove America program by purchasing specially marked red, white and blue M&M’S at their local retailer through Labor Day. In addition to encouraging fans to volunteer time, M&M’s is also making a donation of $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity to fund the construction of Habitat homes in 2013
Sunday’s race in his M&M’s M’Prove America colors will be Busch’s 19th career start at the Charlotte oval, two more than he has started at any other track. Busch has posted 17 starts at six other racetracks – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Ironically, of those six tracks, Busch has won at all of them except Martinsville, and he’s combined for 13 of his overall 26 Sprint Cup wins at those six tracks.
Statistically speaking, Busch’s best Sprint Cup tracks are Bristol and Richmond as he has compiled an impressive nine wins, 20 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 30 starts at the two short tracks during his nine-year career. Add some memorable wins at difficult places like Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008, his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009, and his first Sprint Cup win in 16 tries at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth earlier this season, and Busch can’t help but realize Charlotte is still the one venue where a Sprint Cup win has eluded him.
Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds.
In his 18 previous Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte over the past nine-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the 1.5-mile oval nicknamed the “Beast of the Southeast.” He’s currently riding a streak of 10 top-10 finishes during the last 12 points-paying races there, dating back to October 2006. In addition to solid Sprint Cup finishes, Busch has captured six NASCAR Nationwide Series wins (May 2004, 2005 and 2008, October 2008 and 2009, and May 2010) and five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
So, will this be the weekend that Busch finally scores his long-awaited Charlotte win? Well, he’s been building up to it for quite some time.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are the challenges of racing at Charlotte? “I think the biggest challenge about Charlotte is how much the track changes from practice. You practice all during the day and then you go into night racing. You’ve got to know what kind of adjustments to make to your car and how well you can race at night. Typically, you go back to your night notes. For us, we’ve run well there in the past and like going there. It’s a fun place to race and adds to the excitement of spending some time at home.”
You’ve said in the past that Charlotte is your favorite track. Is there any particular reason why? “Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons. Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Nationwide Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. But a Cup Series win has eluded me there. We’re definitely getting closer than I was back when I first started racing at Charlotte. I think I have something like 10 top-10 finishes in my last 12 races going into this weekend, so I hope my luck is turning around a bit and I can finally get that Sprint Cup win there with our M&M’s M’Prove America Camry. We’ve been very close the last couple of years.”
Does Sunday’s 600-mile race feel different than other events? “It depends on what kind of car you have. I’ve been in races in the 600-mile race where it’s felt really easy and short, and I’ve been in races where it’s been a long, drawn-out, knock ’em, sock ’em kind of day. Hopefully, Dave Rogers (crew chief) and the guys can bring a really good M&M’s M’Prove America Camry for me this weekend and it will be a smooth race for us. I like running the 600 miles. I think it brings a new aspect to our sport – its longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring. Whatever.’ Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and the history that we’ve had here on Memorial Day weekend for a long time, that you run that extra hundred miles. And car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You’ll have fatigue, sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. So, if you don’t show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good.”
If you’re saving your car for the end of the race, is it a struggle for you not to pass during the course of this long, 600-mile event? “Yeah, you want to race those guys who are around you all of the time. You think to yourself, ‘There’s a car in front of me. I want to pass that guy.’ That’s what’s in your blood to do. Sometimes, you’ve just got to back off a little bit and kind of let the race play out. You’ve got to get to the end of the final pit stop. Once you get to the final pit stop, then the race is on. That’s kind of the way it works out. Charlotte can suck you in and it can suck you in pretty easily – into the wall, I mean.”