Kyle Busch Wants To Bring The Heat To Chicagoland

Kyle Busch

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs take the green flag Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Kyle Busch plans to bring the “heat” to the first race of the postseason.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles® Sweet Heat Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will have a new product and a new scheme to start the 10-race playoffs this weekend. The new sweet, yet spicy, candy will debut on the track this weekend and is available at Walgreens stores with a full, nationwide rollout set for early next year.In the third year of its current format but with a new name, the NASCAR Playoffs begin this weekend with Busch as the third seed among the 16-drivers taking part in the series of elimination rounds over the next 10 races that will determine the 2017 Cup Series champion.

The championship format breaks the 10-race playoffs into a four-round grid. The first round is a round of 16 and features races at Chicagoland, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. After Dover, four drivers are eliminated and 12 drivers remain for the second round. The three races of the round of 12 will be run at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. After Kansas, just eight drivers will remain for the third round. Races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and Phoenix International Raceway will comprise the round of eight. After Phoenix, just four drivers will remain for the championship race and season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. At Homestead, the goal is simple – the highest finisher among the final four drivers will be crowned champion.

With fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. proving to be the dominant force during the 2017 regular season, Busch and the No. 18 team were not far behind.

Along with setting his sights on advancing throughout the playoffs, the 2015 Cup Series champion is looking to rekindle the magic he showed at Chicagoland in 2008 – when he captured a dramatic win at the track just southwest of Chicago – during Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400.

Back in 2008, a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish. Busch lined up behind now seven-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. On the final restart, the Las Vegas native made a bold and surprising move to the outside in turns one and two, passing Johnson and holding him off to bring home the win.

As Busch looks ahead to the kickoff of this year’s playoffs at Chicagoland, he and the Skittles Sweet Heat team hope to bring the “heat,” as a win Sunday could go a long way toward helping him and his team bring home their second Cup Series title.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles Sweet Heat Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
How do you feel entering the first round of the playoffs?

“I like it. You know, we’ve been running really solidly at New Hampshire the last few years and Chicago has been good for us. It’s a decent place to run top-10, for sure. And then, Dover, of course, is a really good place for us. I like it. You know, it seems like it’s a good round for us to be able to score some wins. As long as you get one, that moves you on through. Doesn’t matter how many you get after that, but we’ll see how it goes. Just a matter of trying to manage your losses, essentially, and making sure you can come out of races with good finishes. If you look at the playoffs overall, I feel really good about the tracks, with Talladega being the only place where I don’t have a lot of confidence because you never know what can happen there. Texas would be the only other track that might be a bit of wild card since it’s only the second race on the new pavement there but, other than that, there are a lot of good track for us in the final 10 races. We’re looking to start it off right with our Skittles Sweet Heat Camry this weekend.”

Do you feel like you’re in a better position this year?

“I kind of feel about the same, actually. I feel like we kind of are right even with where we were last year – kind of doing the same things – but there are other guys who are better than us, so we’re just going to have to figure out how to out-race them and out-finish them when we need to. A couple of our ‘teammates’ – the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) especially – he’s just been stellar fast each and every week. The 78 has been the best all year and I feel like myself and Kyle Larson have been the second-best cars most weeks. We just have to step our game up and see if we can get a little bit better and on the level of what the 78 has been. In the playoffs, something can happen to you and take you out of a round. That’s why you’ve got to be careful and try to minimize your bad days and make it forward.”

How do you feel about how you’ve run at Chicagoland in recent years?

“At Chicago, we ran really well there in ’08 and, unfortunately, ’09, ’10 and ’11 we kind of a struggled. The last several years we ran well there but didn’t always get the finishes we deserved for how well we ran. We had a really solid top-five run going the last two years.”

Where does the 2008 Cup win at Chicagoland rank in terms of special wins for you, knowing how you made a spectacular move on the outside to win?

“Winning both (Xfinity Series and Cup) races at Chicago that year, it was just a great weekend. It was special, but there have been several special wins the last few years. Obviously, winning twice at the Brickyard was very special and, of course, winning the championship at Homestead in 2015 was a big highlight, as well. But winning Chicago in 2008 and beating Jimmie (Johnson) was definitely neat. Ultimately, I have a lot of respect for him, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and a lot of guys who have given a lot to this sport over the years, since it’s so competitive. To go out and beat guys like that, it’s something pretty special and I really cherished that, for sure.”

Skittles Sweet Heat Racing

Race 27 of 36 – Tales of the Turtles 400 – Chicagoland

Car No.: 18 – Skittles Sweet Heat 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: 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: 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 Tales of The Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois will mark Kyle Busch’s 453rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 13th NASCAR Cup Series start at Chicagoland.
  • Busch has career totals of 40 wins, 25 poles, 157 top-five finishes, 235 top-10s and 13,707 laps led in 452 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came last month at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 25th of his career, also came last month at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. He now has six poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10s and has led a total of 429 laps in 12 career Cup Series starts at Chicagoland. Busch’s average Chicagoland finish is 11.1.
  • Playoff Bound: Busch, the 2015 Cup Series champion, enters the playoffs as the third seed as he accumulated 29 playoff bonus points during the regular season and will start the 2017 postseason 24 points behind regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. Busch also brought home 11 stage wins during the regular season and, along with five bonus points for each win and points as the third seed, he can apply his 29 playoff bonus points to each round of the playoffs.
  • 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 –last month at Bristol. 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 his third consecutive pole last month at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, which was the sixth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Six poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career. 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.
  • 40 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Bristol, the 40th points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits tied for 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin. Busch is 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 (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, and now Pocono 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 36 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Bristol.
  • 180 and Counting: Busch enters Chicagoland with 180 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (40), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his weekend sweep of the Camping World Truck, Xfinity, and Monster Energy Cup Series races at Bristol last month.

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

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