Kyle Busch Focused On Repeating As Sprint Cup Champion

Kyle Busch

The current elimination format of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup postseason is down to the final weekend of its third season, and one thing has been clear during the format’s first two seasons of finales – it truly is winner-take-all.

And the good news for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is that he did just that one year ago as the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, taking home the 2015 Sprint Cup title. While the rules state that the highest-finishing driver Sunday among the four championship-eligible drivers at Homestead will win this year’s championship, winning was 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.


So, looking at those statistics alone, it’s fairly clear that Sunday’s race really is winner-take-all. Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S team know exactly what they need to do to successfully defend their Sprint Cup title – win the race and bring home the ultimate celebration of M&M’S 75th anniversary year.


The road to Homestead for Busch and the M&M’S team has been anything but easy. They’ve had to roll up their sleeves the entire Chase, putting in a workmanlike Chase filled with six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in order to make it to the Championship 4 this weekend at Homestead.


The M&M’S team made it through the Round of 8 with a gritty fifth-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and an even grittier fifth-place finish two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. At Texas, Busch wrecked his primary car on his first lap of practice, forcing the team to use a backup car. In qualifying, a water leak forced him out after the first round of qualifying and he started 24th. In the race, Busch battled early handling issues and also debris poking a large hole in the right-front of the M&M’S Toyota’s nose. Still, the team recovered and fought its way back to fifth place before the race was cut short by rain.


This past weekend at Phoenix International Raceway may have been the team’s most impressive feat. After handling issues Friday led to a disappointing qualifying position of 19th, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S team went to work. That included pit calls, adjustments and impressive driving that got them into the top-three with a little more than 40 laps to go. Busch dug deep and moved his way up to second behind race-winner Joey Logano, clinching the fourth and final spot in the Sunday’s championship race.


Busch is now focused on Homestead, where he’ll have his shot at defending his title against the likes of six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Logano, and JGR teammate Carl Edwards in the one-race shootout for the Sprint Cup championship trophy.


While Busch’s statistics at Homestead may not look strong with an average finish of 21.1, 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 one year ago, as 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.


So, as Busch heads to South Florida with everything on the line, it will be time to roll up the sleeves again and get to work, much like the entire Chase, knowing full well the plan is to win the race in order to guarantee a second consecutive Sprint Cup championship.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
Do you feel you and the M&M’S team will be able to go to Miami and defend your championship?


“I think so. We haven’t showed our strength here in a few weeks, but we’ve showed consistency with our M&M’S Camry. I’m hoping that this consistency is what shows our strength this week. We always talk about in this sport how top-10s lead to top-fives and top-fives lead to wins. Eventually, we’re going to keep finishing in the top-five and we just had three top-fives in a row. It could be more than that, that’s what it was in this round – a fifth, a fifth and a second was as sporty as we could do and we move on. Hopefully, Homestead is a little better.”


How does it feel to be able to go and race for a championship at Homestead for a second 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. 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, 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. It was a restart (at Phoenix) that helped us keep our season alive and, you know, we’re able to go on. I’m looking forward to Homestead. We won that race last year. We had a really fast car, and we didn’t need to win the race to win the championship, as it was coming down towards the end, but then there was a late caution that kind of bunched the field back up and some different things happened that gave us the opportunity to win the race.”
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 Camry was pretty good the last couple of years, but we would like to be able to go back to Homestead and do the same thing we did last year.”


What will it be like racing a teammate for the championship at Homestead?


“I think all of us have worked really, really well together and that’s what made the strength of the Gibbs team for the last few years, that we’ve gotten so much better, is all of us being able to work together and share what we share. We’ll do the same thing going into this week and just try to outrace them. If we run the same exact setup and car and everything else, then there’s just going to have to be a way that I get the job done better than Carl (Edwards), or vice versa, if it comes down to the end where one of us has a better shot at it than the other does.”

M&M’S Racing

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

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Toyota Camry


Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry; Carl Edwards – No. 19 Arris Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry.


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

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 Ford EcoBoost 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 426th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 12th Sprint Cup start at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 147 top-five finishes, 218 top-10s and 12,355 laps led in 425 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, two top-fives and four top-10s and has led a total of 278 laps in 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Homestead. His average Homestead finish is 21.1.
  • Winner Take All: Busch, along with six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Carl Edwards, will battle it out Sunday at Homestead for the Sprint Cup title, with the highest finisher taking home the championship trophy. Busch is the defending race winner as he led 41 laps in last season’s finale, and he’ll be shooting to be just the fourth driver to win back-to-back titles. Dale Earnhardt (1993-1994), Jeff Gordon (1997-98) and Johnson (2006-10) brought home two or more consecutive titles.
  • Career Highs: By notching his 17th top-five of the season Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch has now matched his career high of 17 top-five finishes from 2008, his first season at JGR. Additionally, Busch added to another career-high mark with his 24th top-10 finish of the season at Phoenix.
  • 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 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. 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.
  • 170 and Counting: Busch enters Homestead with 170 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup (38), Xfinity (86) and Truck (46) – after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series race last weekend at Phoenix.


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