HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – After his win at Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, his second of the young season, Kyle Busch said he felt like he was “riding a wave right now that’s 30 feet tall and ready to keep riding.”
Even though the next race on the schedule occurs at land-locked Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch will hope to continue riding that wave of momentum in Sunday’s STP 400.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is on quite a roll as of late, winning two of the seven Sprint Cup races contested so far and four of the six Nationwide Series races this season.
At Texas, Busch was victorious in his 300th career Sprint Cup start, and it was his first Sprint Cup win at Texas in 16 tries. On the heels of that long-awaited breakthrough, Busch will hope to make a similar turnaround at Kansas, a track where he’s struggled over the years. With an average finish of just 21.0 and just two top-10 finish in his previous 11 visits in a Sprint Cup car, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire M&M’s team are focused on turning those numbers around.
Busch has won at 17 of the 23 tracks at which the Sprint Cup Series competes. The only six tracks Busch has failed to reach victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series are: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas – site of Sunday’s STP 400.
Despite the dry spell at Kansas in NASCAR’s top series, Busch has tasted success at Kansas in NASCAR’s second tier of competition – as is the case at most racetracks on the Nationwide Series schedule – with a victory in 2007, a runner-up finish in 2009, and a pair of third-place runs in 2006 and 2010. The best he has to show for his nine visits on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
Busch and his M&M’S team will commemorate Earth Day during Sunday’s race, with Mars planting a tree in the Topeka area for every lap that Kyle leads during the STP 400. The initiative is part of NASCAR’s Race to Green program, which includes several fan-focused activities taking place in April to showcase sustainability efforts in the sport. The Topeka area will be home to a new Mars facility scheduled for completion in late 2013 and will manufacture M&M’S and SNICKERS Brand products.
So, as Busch heads to the Heartland of America this weekend, it’s going to be “surf’s up” at Kansas as he vies for that long-awaited first Sprint Cup win there.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Kansas is a place where you’ve traditionally struggled over the years, but with the momentum swing you’re on, will that help you there this weekend? “I’m looking forward to Kansas with the roll that we’re on. I thought we were running decent there last year. Actually, I was leading, and I spun myself out while I was leading. So, hopefully, we have a good car like that this time around and I don’t make a mistake like that. But, you know, Kansas is newly repaved. It’s got a winter on it, now, so we’ll see how that changes things. But I still expect it to be fast. It’s a place that you want to run well at because it hosts a Chase race in the fall. So we’ve got to develop our notes in Kansas this weekend and, fortunately, I’ve got a really good teammate in Matt Kenseth. He and I have been working really well this year. His team and our team have been really, really good with one another. Unfortunately, Denny (Hamlin) is not with us at this point where we’re not being able to use his notes much because we’re kind of ‘driver of the week’ over there. But it feels really good to have good chemistry between all three.”
Why has Kansas been so difficult for you over the years? “It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that. It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at this place a lot like Michigan. That’s a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they repaved it along with Kansas.”
As a result of missing last year’s Chase, did that help your team refocus on the offseason and help with your fast start so far in 2013? “We were close. We were three points from making it and, if it wasn’t for a brake rotor exploding at Pocono, or maybe a motor issue here or something else there, we would have made the Chase. But, unfortunately, we didn’t. It was tough. It was really, really tough to have to go through that. But we bounced back and ran strong in the final 10 weeks. We wanted to carry that momentum over into this year. It didn’t start out that way in Daytona, unfortunately, and again in Phoenix. We put the race at Phoenix on my shoulders and I didn’t do a very good job carrying it. So that was my bad. Since then, we’ve talked and we’ve worked and we continue to grow and make our cars fast each and every weekend. So, right now, it’s having good stuff, having good communication, having our people with their backs not against the wall, and everybody being able to work, and work smart.”
You won at Texas last weekend in your 300th start at 27 years old. What do you think of the numbers that you’ve put up with 26 wins in that time? “There’s a guy named Jimmie Johnson out there who has absolutely shredded the stat book for the rest of us. It’s great for what I’ve been able to accomplish in this sport and I’m thankful for that. And I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and a lot of people to be thankful to, including Joe Gibbs and Dave Rogers, just to name a few. I’m a competitor so, of course, you always wish your stats were a little bit better. I’d love to say I’ve had 50 wins by now, or something near that. But you take everything in stride as best you can, and we’ll continue to work hard. Hopefully, we can continue to increase that number for many years to come, starting with this weekend in hope we can get M&M’s its first win of the season.”