What Made Martin Truex, Jr. The Champion?

Martin Truex, Jr.

Understandably, the proudest moment of Martin Truex’s racing life was simultaneously a source of enormous frustration for Kyle Busch.

But both drivers recall with indelible clarity the closing laps of the Nov. 19 Ford Eco-Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race that made Truex a champion and Busch a disappointed runner-up for the title.

For the record, Truex powered his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota across the finish line, with Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .681 seconds in arrears. But the outcome was in doubt for the final 17 laps, after Busch passed Kevin Harvick for second place on Lap 250 of 267 and took off after Truex, who had claimed the lead off pit road for a restart on Lap 234.

With Busch driving a faster long-run car, Truex found a small patch of grip high in Turn 4 and kept Busch’s Camry in his mirror.

“For me, it’s probably one of my proudest moments, because I got put in that position, and my guys said, ‘Here it is; it’s all up to you now; here’s the lead with 32 laps to go – show us what you’ve got,’” Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service.

“It’s definitely one of the proudest moments of my career to be able to bring it home for them, after all, they’ve done for me and giving me the opportunity they have and putting me in a position to be a champion. I was glad I could hold up my end of the deal.”

Though Truex hasn’t watched a replay of the race in its entirety, he relishes the memory of every second of the closing green-flag run.

“I can remember every single one of those laps,” Truex said. “I can remember everything that happened, everything I thought, when I missed the line when I hit it, and, most importantly, when I found that little patch of grip up there off of Turn 4.

“That was the game-changer for me.”

For Busch, not so much.

“I tried that same patch – it didn’t work for me,” Busch said after Wednesday’s Myers Brothers Awards ceremony in the Encore Theater. “I tried to get as close to the wall as I could off of (Turn) 4. I was way too loose. I just didn’t have the drive-off that I needed, and I think that was a lot to do with being in his wake, just being behind him and having the aero deficiency that I had.”

The final 15 laps weren’t just a two-car battle. Enter Kyle Larson, who charged past Harvick for the third position on Lap 252 and, running against the outside wall, quickly rolled up near Busch’s back bumper and began contemplating his prospects of passing the No. 18.

“I got to third, and I felt like, if I was going to win or pass those guys – which I felt like I could – I needed to pass them before 10 (laps) to go,” said Larson, who was eliminated from championship contention by an engine failure at Kansas Speedway.

“I felt like, once we got to 10 to go, I needed to respect them and kind of let things play out between those two… I didn’t want to screw one guy and not the other.”

Interestingly, Busch contemplated letting Larson pass him in the closing laps.

“I actually thought about, with maybe 15 to go, something like that… he (Larson) was really close to me, and I was like, ‘I wonder if I let him go, and he gets in-between us if he’ll go and try to race Truex and pass Truex and help Truex come back to me,” Busch said.

“So I thought about doing that, but I said I can’t give in to that at this moment of letting somebody else within the battle, because, if he doesn’t go up and pass the 78, he just pushes me further behind. That’s why I stayed the way we were and tried to fight it out.”

With Truex making ground near the top of the track, Busch tried a low line, and with three laps left, he lost momentum off Turn 2. With a head of steam around the top, Larson was there to give the No. 18 a nudge.

“I was hoping to launch him forward, but I kind of got him squirrely,” Larson said. “I’m glad he didn’t hit the wall, because I was just trying to help him out. Not that I wanted him to win over Martin. I just wanted to get him closer to make the racing more exciting, I guess.”

In the moment, Busch understood Larson’s intent.

“I knew that was a moment of help,” Busch said. “It wasn’t a moment of trying to screw with me at all. I knew what that was. It’s just that these cars are so loose on the straightaways, with not a lot of downforce, and of course, we were on older tires, with higher air pressure and everything like that, and it got me juked up.

“But I was expecting that, and I was fine with it. It was all good.”

In the end, the bump from Larson didn’t help enough to put Truex’s title in jeopardy. But it helped to make the final 17 laps of the event some of the most riveting in recent memory.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Wins The Snowball Derby In Pensacola

 
Date:                            Dec. 3, 2017
Event:                          50th Annual Snowball Derby Super Late Model race
Location:                     5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. (0.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish:                15th/1st (Running, completed 300 of 300 laps)
Winner:                       Kyle Busch of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)

After starting 15th and running third for the majority of the second half of the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, Kyle Busch dug deep in the late stages and was able to bring home his second Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy. After restarting third with 66 laps remaining in the 300-lap event, Busch was able to work his way around Bubba Pollard for second place with 22 laps remaining and then maneuvered past Jeff Choquette for the race lead with 16 laps to go. Once out front, the Las Vegas native cruised to the victory in the prestigious Super Late Model event.

Throughout the week’s numerous practice sessions, the No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry showed good long-run speed.  The race car didn’t fire off like the way some other competitors could. Busch qualified a disappointing 15th on Friday night, but ended Saturday’s final practice session sixth quick.

The No. 51 Camry began moving forward once the race started, despite communicating that his Toyota was tight handling. He had made his way up to the fifth spot before pitting for four tires and fuel under caution on lap 76. With the field employing several different strategies, KBM’s owner-driver restarted 11th when the field went back green on lap 89.

Busch took advantage of his fresh tires as he advanced up to fourth place on lap 100 and 10 laps later and was able to make his way around Jeremy Doss to lead for the first time. After spending 10 laps at the front of the field, Busch was pressured by Choquettte and Pollard and decide that it was too early to push things as he settled into the third position. Harrison Burton was also able to make his way around his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner, leaving Busch in the fourth spot when the race reached the halfway mark.

Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned Busch to pit road for the second time of the day under caution on lap 171. A speedy four-tire stop by the over-the-wall crew gained the team two positions and the No. 51 Camry took the lap-179 restart from the second position. On the ensuing restart the inside lane got a strong surge and Busch fell back to the third spot.

Busch remained scored in the third position for the final restart of the race with 66 laps remaining. The race would remain caution free the rest of the way. Choquette and Pollard had a sizeable lead on Busch and it appeared that it was going to be a two-car race for the win, but their lap times continued slowing in the second half of the run when Busch’s times had stabilized as he began narrowing the gap with 30 laps remaining.

The No. 51 Phoenix Construction/Toyota Camry continued to post fast lap times as he maneuvered around both Pollard and Choquette in the closing laps to pick up KBM’s third Snowball Derby victory.

Noah Gragson finished 12th in KBM’s No. 18 Switch Camry, while Cole Rouse and the No. 46 Toyota Racing team were relegated to a 25th-place finish after a cut tire caused major damage with 82 laps remaining.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry
What does this win mean to you?
“This is huge. Everybody dreams about winning a Snowball Derby. It feels really good today because we had such a good car on the long runs and we outran those guys. We were able to drive through and pass them, it wasn’t a short sprint to the end on tires or anything like that. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports for the hard work they put in to bringing home this win. Special thanks to Toyota, TRD, Phoenix Construction, Billy Ballew, Family Funeral and Cremation, SRI, Stock Car Steel, Pro Molly and all of our Super Late Model partners.”
Did you think the race was going to go green the final 66 laps?
“I didn’t think it would go green until the end, especially with some of those guys who took tires. I figured they would try to work their way through the field and there would be some accidents with guys getting into guys, but that didn’t happen. Everybody ran a clean race for the most part, it was fun racing against (Jeff) Choquette – he was in the mix the last time that I was here when Erik Jones won. It was also fun racing against Bubba (Pollard) as always — he’s one of the best that there is. It was so much fun to be able to put our car on top today.”
When did you sense that this car was special today?
“It was probably with about 40 laps to go, I started inching in on those guys – Harrison Burton started falling back and I started going forward. I was like ok we’ve got a shot here, just keep everything underneath me and keep feeling it out. When I got closer I was like let’s get by them now and fortunately I could. I had enough drive, had enough grip and got by them.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Motorsports Previews The Snow Ball Derby

Kyle Busch

Over 50 Super Late Model teams converged on Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., this week for the 50th running of the prestigious Snowball Derby, including three entries from Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). Owner-driver Kyle Busch, who won the event in 2009, will be joined by Noah Gragson and Cole Rouse for Sunday’s300-lap event at the half-mile, high-banked oval.

KBM will be looking to collect its third Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy. In addition to Busch’s win in 2009, the organization visited victory lane with Erik Jones in 2013.

Speed 51 is offering live pay-per-view coverage of the Snowball Derby for fans that cannot attend but wish to watch one of the year’s most exciting racing events. Green flag is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and coverage begins at 12 p.m. CT with the Snowball Derby Pre Race Show.

Here’s a closer look at KBM’s three entries in Sunday’s race:

Driver:                                      Kyle Busch

Starting Position:                    15th

Final Practice Result:             Sixth

Car:                                          No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry

Associate Sponsors:                Billy Ballew Motorsports, Family Funeral and Cremation, ProMoly, Stock Car Steel and                                                              Aluminum Company, SRI and TRD

Crew Chief:                             Rudy Fugle

Busch hopped on a plane from Las Vegas late Thursday night after attending the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual banquet and arrived in Pensacola just prior to the start of Friday’s first practice session. The Las Vegas native will be looking to score his 14th overall victory of 2017, having posted five wins in both the Cup and Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and three Camping World Truck Series victories for KBM.

In addition to his 183 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Busch has posted numerous Late Model victories throughout his career, including the Snowball Derby in 2009. Busch will be making his fourth career Snowball Derby start Sunday, most recently finishing third in the 2012 event.

Busch will be hosting the “Rowdy Roundup” in the Fan Zone at 5 Flags Speedway Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CT. Tickets for the exclusive meet and greet, which allows fans the opportunity to get two items autographed and have their picture taken with Busch, can still be purchased at the 5 Flags Speedway Main Office.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Camry

“Obviously 15th isn’t where we wanted to qualify, but Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and all the guys made our Toyota, Phoenix Construction Camry a lot better for final practice. We made some 20-lap runs and we feel like we have good long-run speed, but we’re probably still lacking a little bit of speed firing off compared to the guys that qualified up front.”

Driver:                                      Noah Gragson

Starting Position:                    20th

Final Practice Result:             Ninth

Car:                                          No. 18 Switch Camry

Associate Sponsors:                Game of War, Machine Zone, Mobile Strike and SpringHill Suites

Crew Chief:                             Marcus Richmond

Gragson competed full-time for KBM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. The 19-year-old’s rookie season was highlighted by a victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October when he outdueled series stalwarts Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton in the closing laps to pick up his first NASCAR National Series victory. In addition to his win, the Las Vegas native registered three poles, 187 laps led, four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes across 23 Truck Series starts.

In addition to his full-time schedule in the Truck Series, Gragson will be making his third start this season for the KBM Super Late Model team. In his most recent outing he scored a victory in one of the crown jewels of Super Late Model racing, the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway.

Sunday will be Gragson’s third consecutive Snowball Derby start. Last year he qualified seventh and finished ninth, improving on an 11th-place finish in 2015.

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Camry

“The first two days of practice and last night in qualifying I really wasn’t satisfied with the speed of our Switch Toyota Camry, but today in Happy Hour it was a lot better. My crew chief Marcus Richmond and the No. 18 team made some really good changes that helped the attitude of the car. I’m excited to be starting my third Snowball Derby and coming off a win in the Winchester 400, I have lot more confidence this year than I did the last two years. I didn’t grow up racing Super Late Models and don’t have a lot of experience with them, so getting that first big win takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I know now that I’m capable of beating some of the best guys in the country. This race has a lot of the same field, it’s another long race and you have to have the same mentality to be successful.”

Driver:                                     Cole Rouse

Starting Position:                    23rd

Car:                                          No. 46 Toyota Camry

Final Practice Result:             10th

Associate Sponsors:                JBL, Rouse Custom Homes, SpringHill Suites and TRD

Crew Chief:                             Cody Glick

Rouse’s first season driving for KBM’s Super Late Model team has been a successful one. The Arkansas native collected two victories, one pole, five top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 11 starts en route to the CARS Super Late Model Tour championship.

The 20-year-old has been knocking on the door of collecting his first marquee Super Late Model win. In his most recent start, he won the pole and led the first 115 laps of the Winchester 400 before he went multiple laps down due to a mechanical issue. After fixing the issue the team returned to the track and were able to post a respectable 12th-place finish.

Sunday will be Rouse’s first time being a part of the 36-driver field for the Snowball Derby.

Cole Rouse, driver of the No. 46 Camry

“I over drove it a little bit in qualifying and we are starting further back in the field than we would like to, but I felt like we had a good race-run Camry today in final practice. We had a lot of low lap times and it seemed like any time we were behind someone on the track we were able to catch them — so that’s a good sign. I’m really excited for tomorrow, our Toyota Camry has a lot of drive off and I feel like that will be important when we get to racing and trying to pass people tomorrow.”

In addition to the associate sponsors for each driver, Kyle Busch Motorsports would like to thank the following season-long partners of the Super Late Model Program. Axalta, Basset Wheels, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Interstate Batteries, Lincoln Welders, Mechanix Wear, Rowdy Manufacturing, Safety Kleen and SCHROTH Safety Products.

Notable wins for the KBM Late Model team since its inception in 2007 include: Wisconsin All-Star 100 at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2008), Red Bud 300 at Anderson Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009), Winchester 400 at Winchester Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009, Erik Jones 2013 & 2014 and Noah Gragson 2017), Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 and Erik Jones 2013), SpeedFest at Lanier National Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 & 2010), SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway (Kyle Busch 2012), Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway (Kyle Busch 2010, 2011 & 2012), All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville (TJ Reaid 2010), Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway (Kyle Busch 2013), the Howie Lettow Memorial at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2013 and Erik Jones 2014) and the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway (Christopher Bell 2015).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch: “It Wasn’t Quite What We Wanted”

Kyle Busch

The final race came down to the finals laps, among the top cars from the dominant manufacturer, and ultimately, the most successful driver won the championship!

But even still, 2015 series champion Kyle Busch couldn’t take much comfort in fellow Toyota-driving Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing winning his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Busch, driving for affiliate Joe Gibbs Racing, would have much preferred that he had made up the final .681-second distance between the race-winner and champion and his slot in second place.

“It wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” said Busch, who closed on Truex Jr. doggedly in the final 10 laps. “I thought we had a really great race car, especially on the long runs we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end not having enough tire when I got to [Truex Jr.], so I just overused my stuff, and I knew I overused my stuff when I was running with [Joey Logano, then holding second place] trying to get by him and just overworked everything. And got to [championship-eligible Kevin Harvick], got by him pretty quick, I tried to make sure that I could do that pretty quick so then I could have at least a little more tire life, but didn’t seem to pay me off any when I got to [Truex Jr.].”

Busch led 43 laps and held a 21.4-second lead as part of a fuel strategy play on Lap 216 of 267, but was forced to surrender the lead to pit. He worked backed through the field because of his strength on lengthy runs and overtook Kyle Larson – who led a race-high 145 laps – for second place.

Busch’s five wins this season were second only to Truex Jr.’s eight.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Can Kyle Busch Hoist The Hardware At Homestead?

Kyle Busch

The current elimination format of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is down to the final weekend of its fourth season, and one thing has been clear during the format’s first three seasons of finales – you must win if you want to bring home the season championship.

And the good news for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is he did just that two years ago as the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, taking home the 2015 Sprint Cup title.

While the rules state that the highest-finisher Sunday among the four championship-eligible drivers at Homestead will win this year’s championship, it’s been proven thus far that it’s about more than simply being the highest finisher, it’s a must-win situation. Jimmie Johnson was the latest to win the finale at Homestead, bringing home his record-tying seventh career title last November. In 2015, winning was also a necessity for Busch to bring home his first title as another Championship 4 driver, Kevin Harvick, finished in the runner-up spot. In 2014, the winner-take-all scenario also rang true as Harvick won the race and the title while Championship 4 contender Ryan Newman finished second.

The road to Homestead for Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team has been anything but easy. While this is the third consecutive year that Busch has made it to the Championship 4, his path in 2017 proved to be much different than the two previous seasons. In 2015, Busch’s path paved with six top-five finishes, and seven top-10s in the 10 playoff races – his lone win coming in the championship race at Homestead. During last season’s 10-race playoffs, Busch was even more consistent with six top-fives and nine top-10s, but he was without a playoff win.

But in 2017, Busch has made it through to Homestead with three victories – at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In all, Busch has three top-fives and five top-10s in this year’s nine playoff races, and he knows he’ll likely need to find one more victory in order to become the 2017 Cup Series champion and bring home his second championship.

There have been 15 NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have won two or more championships since the sport was founded in 1959. Busch is hoping to become the 16th this season to go with his first title in 2015.

Busch also knows the task of winning at Homestead is a big one as he’ll compete against former champions Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, along with fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr., who has seven wins this season and has shown the most speed over the entire year. Thus, it is a strong Championship 4 field that will vie for the title in the one-race shootout for the Cup Series championship trophy Sunday afternoon in South Florida.

While Busch’s statistics at Homestead may not look strong with an average finish of 19.8, it certainly isn’t indicative of how he can run at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval. Busch dominated the 267-lap season finale in 2012, leading six times for a race-high 191 laps. But while he had the dominant car, the Las Vegas native had to settle for a fourth-place finish after a long, green-flag run to the checkered flag saw the M&M’S team come up short on fuel and foiled a seemingly certain win in the closing laps. He backed up his strong run from 2012 with an eighth-place finish in 2013, and had a strong run going in 2014 before a driveline issue put him in the garage for several laps, foiling another chance at the win. His most impressive race at Homestead came in 2015, when he was the top championship-eligible car for much of the 400-mile race, leading six times for a total of 41 laps and bringing home the win and the championship. In 2016, Busch led 41 laps but fell short of the championship with a sixth-place finish.

 

So, as Busch heads to South Florida with everything on the line Sunday, the M&M’S Caramel driver has the mindset that it’s a must-win situation in order to guarantee a second Cup Series championship.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
How big is it to have a chance to win another championship?

“It’s huge. It’s our opportunity to succeed and you know God’s given us every opportunity to go do that. Joe and J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs, everybody on this Joe Gibbs Racing team, they’re phenomenal. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys had great racecars for me all season long, but we were able to turn those good cars into wins the second half of the year and we were hoping for one more this weekend. That’s what it’s likely going to take to win the championship.”

How does it feel to be able to go and race for a championship at Homestead for a third year in a row?

“It’s obviously a great opportunity to be able to go race for a championship, and that’s what this format is. It doesn’t mean a whole lot to make it to the Championship 4 if you don’t win it. You know, it’s all reset to zero. There are four of us who go for winner-take-all at Homestead. It means a lot to have that opportunity not only for myself, but for M&M’S Caramel, Toyota, Interstate Batteries and everyone at JGR who helps us to be as good as we’ve been. It’s what your whole season comes down to. I’m looking forward to Homestead and we’ll see if we can bring home another championship.”

Even though times have changed and the aero package has changed, how much will it help that you’ve gone through this experience and came out on top with the last winner-take-all race at Homestead?

“It’s going to be a tough race. It’s never easy. All the Championship 4 (drivers) are going to be fast and have a lot of experience winning championships and races. It’s that way every single time we go down there. It’s crazy to look at it today, how many of the championship guys were right up front in the top-six, top-seven, during the last round, in particular. That’s just kind of the way this business is when it comes down to the end of the season.”

From your recent experience, how has Homestead changed over the last several years?

“The track seems to have aged a little more and maybe the tire compound could use a little bit of help to be better there, just because we’ve run the same one, I think now, three or four years. The tire compound is fine – it’s not that big of a deal. Definitely a lot of grip for the first few laps, and then it really tapers off and then everybody is running up next to the fence. I think that’s what we saw in years past. As it did get darker, the track seemed to widen out. It’s just during the day, when it’s hot out and it’s slick out, that the best you can do is run right next to the wall. As the nighttime came, you could start moving around a little bit more. It’s definitely still a racey joint, but track temperatures are very conducive to that. Our M&M’S Caramel Camry was pretty good the last couple of years, but we would like to be able to go back to Homestead and do what we did there in 2015.”

M&M’S Caramel Racing

Race 36 of 36 – Ford EcoBoost 400– Homestead-Miami

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Race Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Kenneth Purcell

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

 

Front Tire Changer: Clay Robinson

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

 

Jackman: Trey Burklin

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Matt Ver Meer

Hometown: Montezuma, Iowa

 

Rear Tire Changer: Adam Hartmann

Hometown: Oxford, North Carolina

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher

Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Race Engineer: Tyler Allen

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark Kyle Busch’s 462nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 13th NASCAR Cup Series start at Homestead.
  • Busch has career totals of 43 wins, 27 poles, 160 top-five finishes, 240 top-10s and 14,338 laps led in 461 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came three weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 27th of his career, came in September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has eight poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has one win, two top-five finishes and five top-10s and has led a total of 279 laps in 12 career Cup Series starts at Homestead. Busch’s average Homestead finish is 19.8.
  • Championship 4 Bound: With his win three races ago at Martinsville, Busch clinched a berth into the Championship 4 at Homestead for the third year in a row. The 2015 Cup Series champion will look to bring home his second championship in the season finaleSunday in South Florida against fellow Championship 4 competitors Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski.
  • Starting Up Front: Busch captured another pole in September at New Hampshire, which was the eighth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Eight poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career with 29.6 percent of his career poles coming this season alone. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions –2013 and 2014.
  • 43 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Martinsville, the 43rd points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits alone in 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list, and one win behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 16th all-time.With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Herb Thomas.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway crossed off the list in July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Busch was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 12 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 39 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent Martinsville win.
  • 183 and Counting: Busch enters Homestead with 183 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (43), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his Cup Series win three weeks ago at Martinsville.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Would Love To Be Number Sixteen

Kyle Busch

There have been 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have won two or more championships since the sport was founded in 1948.

Kyle Busch is hoping to become the 16th this season after winning his first title in 2015.

But before Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), can contend for the championship Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he first must trek west for the penultimate race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

The Can-Am 500k is this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, the 35th of 36 races on the schedule. Busch, along with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., are already locked into the winner-take-all Championship 4 at Homestead. One more driver will be added after the Phoenix race is complete.

So, could this weekend in Phoenix be a throwaway race for Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team?

No. Absolutely not.

Busch finished a solid eighth in his very first outing at Phoenix in the spring of 2005, followed by his second career Cup Series victory in his next start there in the fall race that year. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Cup Series win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not too far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

In 24 Cup Series starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. He’s finished no worse than fourth in his last four races at Phoenix.

This weekend, Busch hopes to have another solid run at Phoenix to prepare himself for the ultimate championship race in South Florida.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
How much confidence do you have heading to Phoenix this weekend?

 

“We really look forward to heading back to Phoenix with how well we ran there in the spring. We had the best car there, but a caution came out and hurt us, putting us in a tough spot on whether to pit or not. That’s how it goes, sometimes. That place wasn’t the best for our company years ago, but we’ve worked really hard at JGR on our cars and setups there and we are really much better there as a company. I’m really proud of all the work and progress we’ve made, so Adam (Stevens, crew chief), the guys and I will work hard this weekend and hope it puts us in the right position in the end for another win. I’m looking forward to getting out there and hope we can carry some momentum with this M&M’S Caramel team, myself, and everybody at JGR as we try to win a championship at Homestead the following week.”

What is your outlook for Phoenix after how hard Joe Gibbs Racing has worked to improve there?

“Yeah, that’s the key right there – we’ve worked a ton about everywhere, but especially at Phoenix, and we’re getting to where we want to be. We almost won that race in the spring, so I feel good about our chances again this weekend. From there, all the focus will be on Homestead and what we can do to win there. It’s nice to get to Homestead, but what matters is if you win it.”

What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?

“You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but heading there with our M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out.”

In addition to 10 Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix, you also won in your second Cup Series start at the mile oval. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?

“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave. For some reason, I’ve always run well there. I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you have two distinctly different sets of corners at Phoenix.”

M&M’S Caramel Racing

Race 35 of 36 – Can-Am 500k– Phoenix

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Race Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Kenneth Purcell

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

 

Front Tire Changer: Clay Robinson

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

 

Jackman: Trey Burklin

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Matt Ver Meer

Hometown: Montezuma, Iowa

 

Rear Tire Changer: Adam Hartmann

Hometown: Oxford, North Carolina

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher

Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Race Engineer: Tyler Allen

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The Can-Am 500k at Phoenix Raceway will mark Kyle Busch’s 461st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 25th NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix.
  • Busch has career totals of 43 wins, 27 poles, 160 top-five finishes, 239 top-10s and 14,338 laps led in 460 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came two weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 27th of his career, came in September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has eight poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 16 top-10s and has led a total of 699 laps in 24 career Cup Series starts at Phoenix. Busch’s average Phoenix finish is12.5.
  • Championship 4 Bound: With his win two races ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Busch clinched a berth into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third year in a row. The 2015 Cup Series champion will look to bring home his second championship on Nov. 19 in the season finale in South Florida.
  • 17 races and counting: Busch is on a streak of 17 consecutive races in which he’s led at least a lap, a streak that started in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. The consecutives races of leading laps is the longest such streak since Jeff Gordon led 19 races in a row back in 1995. The longest streak of consecutive races led in the modern era was set by Bobby Allison, who led at least one lap in 39 consecutive races that spanned the 1971 and 1972 seasons.
  • Starting Up Front: Busch captured another pole in September at New Hampshire, which was the eighth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Eight poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career with 29.6 percent of his career poles coming this season alone. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions –2013 and 2014.
  • 43 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Martinsville, the 43rd points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits alone in 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list, and one win behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 16th all-time.With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Herb Thomas.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway crossed off the list in July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Busch was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 12 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 39 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent Martinsville win.
  • 183 and Counting: Busch enters Phoenix with 183 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (43), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his Cup Series win two weeks ago at Martinsville.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Some Eye Popping Numbers In The Round Of 8

Martin Truex, Jr.
Is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. a shoo-in to make the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

Maybe. He has a big enough lead that he could clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday at Texas without winning the AAA Texas 500. If a Playoff driver other than Truex or Kyle Busch takes the checkered flag, Truex can clinch with a lead of 56 points or more over the second-place non-winning Playoff driver.

If Busch or a non-Playoff driver happens to win, Truex will clinch if he holds a lead of 56 points or more over the third-place non-winning Playoff driver.

On the other hand, Truex has three DNFs (did not finish) at both Texas and Phoenix for a total of six. The other seven Playoff drivers have a combined seven DNFs at the two tracks. Though Truex is a strong bet to advance, he’ll have to avoid calamity – and that’s not a guarantee.

Interestingly, the only two Playoff drivers without a DNF at either track are last week’s Martinsville combatants, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Hamlin has a combined 47 starts at Texas and Phoenix. Elliott’s sample size is much smaller – three starts at each track.

But if Elliott decides to get some payback for last Sunday’s wreck and has the opportunity to do so, Hamlin’s unblemished streak could end!

Elliott has the best combined average finish at the final two tracks in the Round of 8 – 6.0 at Texas and 9.7 at Phoenix, again with a small sample. The second-best combined average finish belongs to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, with 8.1 at Texas and 9.0 at Phoenix in 56 starts combined.

The driver who scored the highest number of stage points in the spring races at Texas and Phoenix is Ryan Blaney, who will start eighth in the AAA Texas 500. Blaney claimed seven stage points at Phoenix in March and won the first and second stages at Texas (worth 10 points each) in April before finishing 12th.

In five starts at Texas, however, Blaney has by far the worst average finish (27.6) but has come home 12th in each of the last two races in Fort Worth.

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski scored the second most stage points on the initial visits to the tracks this year – 23 each.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Needs A Good Offense At Texas

Kyle Busch

With his win this past Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Kyle Busch is locked into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 onNov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While the pressure to win races is off for the next two weeks for Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), it doesn’t mean he won’t be trying to keep the pressure on his fellow NASCAR playoff competitors, starting with Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Why is that the case? To borrow a football analogy, the M&M’S Caramel team doesn’t plan to just run the ball and drain the clock just because Busch is locked into the Championship 4 at Homestead. With two races remaining in the Round of 8, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens will still be throwing the ball down the field, in a football sense, and trying to not make it easy for the rest of the remaining playoff field to automatically punch their tickets to Homestead like Busch did this past weekend.

This year’s scenario is much different for Busch than it was the last two seasons, even though he also remained championship eligible at the Homestead season finale.

In 2015, once he got to the Championship 4 at Homestead, he brought home a huge victory to secure his first title in NASCAR’s top series after scoring six top-five finishes through the first nine playoff races. Same goes for 2016, when he also matched the six top-five finishes in the first nine playoff races.

In 2017, Busch has taken a completely different path, as he scored finishes of 29th, 27th and 10th in the Round of 12 but still making it through to the Round of 8 thanks to the all-important playoff points he carried over from the regular season.

After his second career Texas win in the spring of 2016 and a fifth-place finish last fall, Busch has had to also follow a different blueprint at the 1.5-mile oval when it was repaved and slightly reconfigured prior to the start of the 2017 season. He struggled to a 15th-place finish this past April, but Busch comes to town knowing he owns seven top-five finishes in his last nine starts there, and has 11 top-fives in his 23 career Texas starts.

Along with his two Cup Series wins at Texas, Busch been a frequent visitor to victory lane in most everything else he’s raced there. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to 2010. Add his two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009 and 2010 and Busch has quite the collection of signature cowboy hats given to Texas race winners.

So while Busch and his M&M’S Caramel team look to add yet another signature cowboy hat and six-shooters as race winners in the Lone Star State to their steadily growing trophy collection, Busch and his team will keep throwing the ball down the field in order to stay aggressive and keep the pressure on the seven other playoff competitors. If all goes according to plan, they very well may be the ones hoisting the Cup Series championship trophy down in South Florida in two weeks.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
Now that you are locked into the Championship 4, what is the game plan over the next couple of races before the series gets to the Homestead?

“I think the biggest thing we can do is to allow ourselves to look at the next two weeks and try to keep on winning and allowing the anxiety level of these guys to keep amplifying each and every stage and each and every race and to keep them on their toes as to whether they are going to advance or not. If they all have to race for points and race for positions, that’s just going to make it harder for them. Anytime anyone automatically punches their ticket through, that gives them a breather and an opportunity to work on Homestead and what you need to focus on for that race. We’ll just keep racing hard and try and keep winning the next two weeks even though the pressure is off and see what we can do at Homestead.”

What are your thoughts heading into the Texas race, being the second race after the repave?

“Yeah, it’s a whole new deal with the repave. It’s a part of our schedule, it’s a part of our sport. Five years from nowsix years from now, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. We struggled there in the spring, but I have heard the track has changed color a bit, so maybe the summer wore down the surface just a bit. Right out of the gate, going there, we’ll still be trying to put rubber down. It was slick, man. It was so treacherous, hard to get ahold of, hard to understand what you were feeling with your car because you would think you’re tight, that you’ve got all the grip in the world, that you’re going around the corner, and then, ‘Boom,’ it just busts loose right out from under you with no warning. That’s the worst thing. That’s why the older racetracks, the more aged racetracks – the Atlantas, the Californias, the Homesteads – you’re sliding the whole time, so you’re already against the slide. You don’t have maximum grip. You’re already playing with it and trying to get the most out of yourself and the car that you possibly can. You’re not just locked down, locked in solid, then it just jumps out from under you. So, I don’t think we are going to be able to take much info from Texas this weekend that we can use at Homestead, but we’ll go there and work on having a good run with our M&M’S Caramel Camry.”

You’ll have another chance at a championship at Homestead. How big is that for you and your M&M’S Caramel team?

“It’s huge. It’s our opportunity to succeed and you know God’s given us every opportunity to go do that. Joe and J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs, everybody on this Joe Gibbs Racing M&M’S Caramel team, they’re phenomenal. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys have been bringing great racecars for me every weekend. Like I said, I would like to keep the pressure on those other guys for the next two weeks, but winning last weekend gives us the flexibility to look ahead to what we need to do to win at Homestead.”

Do you approach Texas differently than other mile-and-a-half racetracks?

“You do now just because of the repave. Texas is a really fast mile-and-a-half racetrack. Charlotte has been fast the last few years and Texas has always kind of been that way. You’ve got to be able to move around a little bit and run the middle, run the top and show some ability to go all over the racetrack, so getting back to doing that soon would be great. Hoping that the track has worn in a bit more since the spring, and I’m curious to see how it’s going to be this weekend.”

M&M’S Caramel Racing

Race 34 of 36 – AAA Texas 500– Texas

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Race Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Kenneth Purcell

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

 

Front Tire Changer: Clay Robinson

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

 

Jackman: Trey Burklin

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Matt Ver Meer

Hometown: Montezuma, Iowa

 

Rear Tire Changer: Adam Hartmann

Hometown: Oxford, North Carolina

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher

Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Race Engineer: Tyler Allen

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth will mark Kyle Busch’s 460th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 24th NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas.
  • Busch has career totals of 43 wins, 27 poles, 160 top-five finishes, 239 top-10s and 14,331 laps led in 459 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 27th of his career, came last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has eight poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has two wins, 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led a total of 741 laps in 23 career Cup Series starts at Texas. Busch’s average Texas finish is11.7.
  • Championship 4 Bound: With his win last weekend at Martinsville, Busch clinched a berth into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third year in a row. The 2015 Cup Series champion will look to bring home his second championship on Nov. 19 in the season finale in South Florida.
  • 16 races and counting: Busch is on a streak of 16 consecutive races in which he’s led at least a lap, a streak that started in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. The consecutives races of leading laps is the longest such streak since Jeff Gordon led 19 races in a row back in 1995. The longest streak of consecutive races led in the modern era was set by Bobby Allison, who led at least one lap in 39 consecutive races that spanned the 1971 and 1972 seasons.
  • Clean Sweep Times Two: For the second time in his career, Busch swept a weekend in all three of NASCAR’s National Series –Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck –in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The first time Busch completed the feat also happened to be at Bristol back in 2010, and the 2015 Cup Series champion is the only driver to do so –now twice – in NASCAR history.
  • Starting Up Front: Busch captured another pole last month at New Hampshire, which was the eighth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Eight poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career with 29.6 percent of his career poles coming this season alone. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions –2013 and 2014.
  • 43 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Martinsville, the 43rd points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits alone in 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list, and one win behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 16th all-time.With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol in August, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Herb Thomas.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville and Kansas added to the list last season, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway crossed off the list in July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Busch was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 12 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 39 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Martinsville.
  • 183 and Counting: Busch enters Texas with 183 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (43), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his Cup Series win last weekend at Martinsville.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Steals One At Martinsville

Kyle Busch & Kasey Kahne
The sun went down, the new lights came on, and all hell broke loose at Martinsville Speedway!

In a wild overtime finish that took Sunday’s First Data 500 to 505 laps at the .526-mile short track, Kyle Busch beat Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leader Martin Truex Jr. to the stripe by .141 seconds to take the checkered flag and earn a spot in the Nov. 19 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

As Busch crossed the finish line, a multi-car wreck behind him scrambled the running order and left a parking lot of mangled cars on the frontstretch.

But that was simply the final act in a drama that saw a succession of Playoff contenders lose excellent chances to win the first event in the Round of 8.

Chase Elliott held the lead with three laps left in regulation distance when Denny Hamlin dumped Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet in Turn 3, causing the 11th caution and sending the race into overtime.

Ten laps earlier, Brad Keselowski appeared headed for victory and a guaranteed ticket to Homestead before Joey Logano developed a severe tire rub after contact from Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in Turn 1.

Logano spun off Ryan Blaney’s front bumper when the tire went flat in Turn 2, and Elliott grabbed the lead after the restart on Lap 497, with Hamlin following. Hamlin punted Elliott a lap later, and hard feelings continued after the race, with Elliott running Hamlin’s Toyota into the outside wall on the cool-down lap.

Elliott’s wreck set the stage for Busch to win for the second time at Martinsville, the fifth time this season and the 43rd time in his career. After Hamlin cleared Busch on the overtime restart, Busch cut to the inside and wheel-hopped into Hamlin’s Camry, forcing his JGR teammate up the track.

Hamlin fell to seventh at the finish behind Clint Bowyer in third, Keselowski in fourth, Kevin Harvick in fifth and Trevor Bayne in sixth.

“I wanted to get a better restart, pinch Denny down a little bit, but it actually kind of worked out better for me that he got ahead a little bit, gave me a gap,” Busch said. “I got down (to the inside lane), and he got into Turn 3 and just pushed up the race track and I knew I had to plug that hole right away cause I was just going to get beat on from behind,

“So I got up in there and rooted him out of the way a little bit, and we drag-raced down the front straightaway and deep into (Turn) 1, I just wheel-hopped, chattered the rear tires and it was sideways getting in there trying to calm it down with the brakes and everything else. Was able to get through there luckily somehow – I don’t know how – and beat Truex off of (Turn) 4 back to the start/finish line.”

Truex retained the series lead by 17 points over Busch. Elliott, on the other hand went from likely winner to major casualty in the space of one corner, finishing 27th and falling 26 points below the cut line for the Championship 4, with the cut coming in two weeks at Phoenix.

“I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race,” Elliott said. “I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all day long. There was no reason for that, and he comes over and talks to me a second ago and tells me he had somebody pushing him into Turn 3.

“I thought that was funny, because there was nobody within two car lengths of him into Turn 3 behind myself. I don’t know what the deal was, but it is so disappointing. We had the best car I’ve ever had here at Martinsville. And had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him, we don’t.”

Keselowski is third in the standings, followed by Harvick, who holds a three-point edge over Jimmie Johnson, who ran 12th on Sunday. Blaney is six points behind Harvick and Hamlin is eight back, all but guaranteeing another wild race next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway as the fight for the Championship 4 positions intensifies.

Notes: Busch led a race-high 184 laps, followed by Elliott (123) and Keselowski (108)… Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th in his final run at Martinsville in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet… After finishing under lights installed this year, Bowyer would like to see a night race at Martinsville. “We should definitely utilize those lights for something other than an (overtime), because it’s pretty damn cool under the lights,” Bowyer said.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

It Is Trick Or Treat Time For Kyle Busch!

Kyle Busch

Halloween is here and, as has been typical for Kyle Busch the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the colorful candymaker will yet again go racing with a special Halloween scheme Sunday afternoon at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to celebrate M&M’S Halloween fun packs leading into the big day next week.

The spooky-looking M&M’s scheme will race two days before Halloween at a place that used to challenge Busch earlier in his career, and early on in his now almost 10-year tenure with JGR. Busch finished outside the top-10 in three of his first four Martinsville races with JGR in 2008 and 2009. By contrast, Busch has scored five top-five finishes in his last eight starts there, with his worst finish being 15th.

At the pinnacle of the recent success at Martinsville for Busch and the M&M’s team is the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s first career win at the paperclip-shaped oval in April 2016. Not only did he bring home his first Martinsville clock, he did it in dominating fashion, leading five times for a race-high 352 laps en route to victory lane.

With just four races left in the season, and with the series kicking off the Round of 8 of the 2017 playoffs at Martinsville this weekend, Busch knows a repeat performance from April of last year could go a long way in his efforts to bring home his second Cup Series championship for the M&M’S team. If Busch were to win Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville, or at any of the following two events, he would guarantee a spot as one of the four drivers advancing to the winner-take-all finaleNov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that will decide this year’s Cup Series champion.

All season long, Busch and his M&M’s Halloween team have not been ones to back down from a challenge. He was able to slip through the first two playoff rounds, most recently avoiding major trouble at Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Now that he’s made it to the final eight, Busch feels he has just as good a shot as anyone to win his second Cup Series title.

So as the season heads into the homestretch, Busch and the M&M’s Halloween team know that when it comes to being championship-eligible at Homestead, they’ll hope to take advantage of the confidence built during the last several years at Martinsville. Since he already conquered the .526-mile short track in Southern Virginia just last year, Busch hopes there will be an M&M’S treat, the traditional Grandfather clock, and punched ticket to the championship race in Homestead waiting for him at the end of Sunday’s 500-lap race.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
How do you feel about the race this week at Martinsville?

“We’ve run well the last couple of times at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last time. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast and came home second there in the spring. We tested there a few weeks ago and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys had a really fast racecar there, and we feel really good about what we have for this weekend. Hoping that we can finish one spot better there than the spring this time around with our M&M’s Halloween Camry.”

Are you looking forward to the next round?

“I look forward to the next round – we’ve got Martinsville, we’ve got Texas and we’ve got Phoenix. Those are all three really strong tracks for us. Texas is a bit of a wild card with the repave, but there’s no reason why we can’t run well there. Honestly, I don’t know that there are tracks on the schedule that are weak points for us unless, obviously, there are crapshoot-type races like Talladega or Daytona. We lived through Kansas last weekend, so we get to move on.”

What is the key to you getting a win at Martinsville?

“It’s a tough racetrack and, any time you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”

Your racecar is sporting the special M&M’s Halloween paint scheme this week. What was your favorite Halloween costume that you wore as a kid?

“Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year, I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was a kid.”

Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and trick-or-treating?

“It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone’s house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn’t be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home.”

M&M’S Halloween Racing

Race 33 of 36 – First Data 500 – Martinsville

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Halloween Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Race Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Kenneth Purcell

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

 

Front Tire Changer: Clay Robinson

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

 

Jackman: Trey Burklin

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Matt Ver Meer

Hometown: Montezuma, Iowa

 

Rear Tire Changer: Adam Hartmann

Hometown: Oxford, North Carolina

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher

Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Race Engineer: Tyler Allen

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The First Data 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway will mark Kyle Busch’s 459th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 25th NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville.
  • Busch has career totals of 42 wins, 27 poles, 159 top-five finishes, 238 top-10s and 14,147 laps led in 458 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came four weekends ago at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 27th of his career, came last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has eight poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has one win, 12 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 1,116 laps in 24 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville. Busch’s average Martinsville finish is 13.6.
  • Kansas Milestones: Busch added a few interesting stats last weekend during his 10th-place finish at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. With his 112 laps led on Sunday, Busch has now led more than 4,000 laps in his career at 1.5-mile ovals. Also, by leading at Kansas, Busch extended his streak of races in which he’s led laps to 15 in a row. Bobby Allison holds the record for consecutive races with laps led with 39 in a row during the 1971 and 1972 seasons.
  • Clean Sweep Times Two: For the second time in his career, Busch swept a weekend in all three of NASCAR’s National Series –Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck –in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The first time Busch completed the feat also happened to be at Bristol back in 2010, and the 2015 Cup Series champion is the only driver to do so –now twice – in NASCAR history.
  • Starting Up Front: Busch captured another pole last month at New Hampshire, which was the eighth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Eight poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career with 29.6 percent of his career poles coming this season alone. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions –2013 and 2014.
  • 42 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Dover, the 42nd points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits alone in 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list.With his 40th Cup victory coming at Bristol in August, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Herb Thomas.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville and Kansas added to the list last season, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway crossed off the list in July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Busch, of course, was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 38 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Dover.
  • 182 and Counting: Busch enters Martinsville with 182 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (42), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his Cup Series win four races ago at Dover.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!