Kyle Busch Looks For A Good Finish At Talladega

Kyle Busch

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this weekend for the final race of the Round of 12 in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kyle Busch’s SNICKERS Halloween Toyota is appropriately dressed for the occasion with a special Halloween-themed livery.

Talladega will undoubtedly have the usual treats in store for some drivers, but there also can be some scary moments in store for many others during Sunday’s Alabama 500 – the biggest “unknown” of the Sprint Cup playoffs.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Halloween Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has found fortune both good and bad during the first two seasons of NASCAR’s elimination-round format of the Chase.

In the fall of 2014, Busch entered Talladega with a 25-point lead on the eighth and final transfer spot. He ended up being wrecked from behind during a chain-reaction accident, heavily damaging his car and ultimately relegating him to a 40th-place finish and elimination from that year’s Chase.

Last season, Busch headed to the Talladega elimination race ninth in the standings and six points out of the final cutoff spot. He did what he needed to do to advance that day by avoiding trouble and bringing home an 11th-place finish, which advanced him to what is now called the Round of 8. Busch was able to post solid finishes in the Round of 8 to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he brought home his first career Sprint Cup title by winning the season finale.

With lessons learned from the last two seasons and knowing anything can happen at Talladega, Busch again enters the weekend as one of 12 remaining Chase drivers who will look to earn the chance to continue their playoff run by advancing to the Round of 8 starting next weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. This year, Busch sits well above the cutline with a 27-point cushion back to ninth-place Austin Dillon. But he and his SNICKERS Halloween team aren’t fooled at all by the word cushion, which isn’t comforting at a place like Talladega. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are thus far the only drivers guaranteed a spot in the Round of 8 by virtue of their victories in the opening two races in the Round of 12. One lap, or even one corner, could make the difference between making the cut or not as there probably isn’t a track on the circuit that presents as much of an unknown as the mammoth 2.66-mile Talladega oval.

Busch has conquered Talladega just once in his career, his lone win coming in April 2008. In his 22 starts at the track, he has 10 other top-15 finishes, and four outings that ended in an accident. So, the Las Vegas native knows the winner of Sunday’s 500-mile race will need to have a strong car and some good fortune at NASCAR’s longest track.

So as Busch and his fellow competitors head to Talladega this weekend, they’ll hope that a treat will be waiting for them Sunday afternoon in the form of a ticket to the Round of 8, keeping alive their dreams of repeating as Sprint Cup champions.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
Do Talladega and even Martinsville present the chance for a shakeup in the standings?

 

“Obviously, both races are difficult because you can get yourself into trouble by getting caught up in a mess not of your doing. It’s tough, and you’ve got to be able to pull through in all of these races, and you’ve got to have a little bit of luck go your way, too. You’ve got to have the execution of everything go your way. It starts with coming off the hauler and getting good practice sessions going, qualifying well, trying to always stay up front, and then putting yourself in position for a chance to make it through this weekend. I know Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys will have our SNICKERS Halloween Toyota ready to go, we just have to be prepared for anything and also hope for some good fortune on top of that.”

 

Do the solid finishes at Charlotte and Kansas give you any comfort heading to Talladega?

 

“You never can have any comfort and you do what you need to do in order to transfer through. It’s all about the racing gods when it comes to the story of Talladega. I’ve been on both sides of it at Talladega in the first two years of this format. We’ve had a cushion before and been wrecked out, and we were on the outside looking in last year and were able to stay out of trouble and make it through to the next round.”

 

Does it feel easier this year trying to duplicate what worked last year?

 

“Yeah, I think so. I mean, there are obviously times where you feel like you want to push hard and go get a win or go get a better finish than where you’re currently running. But, you know you’ve just got to do what you can in order to let these races kind of fall into place, and sometimes it’s just worth taking the finish that’s coming to you and moving on and going to the next one. It doesn’t always help to push too hard and try to advance yourself. It can also help to just sit back, relax and finish where you can.”

 

What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega?

 

“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. At Talladega, you pretty much stay around the bottom since there is a lot of grip there, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”

SNICKERS Halloween Racing

Race 32 of 38 – Alabama 500 – Talladega

Car No.: 18 – SNICKERS Halloween Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry; Carl Edwards – No. 19 Subway Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Dewalt FlexVolt 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

 

Team 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: Tom Lampe

Hometown: Beatrice, Nebraska

 

Front Tire Changer: Josh Leslie

Hometown: Mount Clemens, Michigan

 

Jackman: TJ Ford

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Brad Donaghy

Hometown: Orange County, Virginia

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Kenny Barber

Hometown: Hoosick Falls, New York

 

Rear Tire Changer: Jake Seminara

Hometown: Steubenville, Ohio

 

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: Gregory Katzke

Hometown: Wausau, Wisconsin

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Team Engineer: Gene Watchtel

Hometown: Clearwater, Florida

 

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 Alabama 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 422nd career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 23rd Sprint Cup start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
  • Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 144 top-five finishes, 215 top-10s and 12,348 laps led in 421 career Sprint Cup races. His most recent Sprint Cup win came in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he brought home his second consecutive win at the historic 2.5-mile oval. Busch’s win came from the pole position, his most recent pole and the 19th of his career.
  • Busch has one win, five top-five s and six top-10s and has led a total of 179 laps in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Talladega. His average Talladega finish is 20.9.
  • One More in Round of 12: Busch, the defending Sprint Cup champion, enters the third and final race of the Round of 12 sitting fourth on the Chase grid, 27 points ahead of ninth-place Austin Dillon heading into the second cutoff race of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Chase field will be cut down to eight drivers still eligible for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship following Sunday’s race at Talladega.
  • 38 Career Sprint Cup Wins: With his Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis, the 38th of his career, Busch is tied for 19th on the all-time Sprint Cup win list with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Matt Kenseth.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list this season, Busch has won Sprint Cup races at 21 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only two tracks he has yet to conquer in the Sprint Cup series are Pocono (Pa) Raceway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. During his 2015 Sprint Cup championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four of Busch’s last six Sprint Cup wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas). Of the 21 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, Busch passed three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Sprint Cup wins for JGR. Busch now has 34 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33.
  • 169 and Counting: Busch enters Talladega with 169 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup (38), Xfinity (85) and Truck (46) – after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series race last weekend at Kansas.

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

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