During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan – located near U.S. 12 just about halfway between Detroit and Chicago – was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet.
Just miles from many of the beautiful lakes and relaxing atmosphere, the Irish Hills come to life two weekends per year and become anything but peaceful and quiet when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The next event there – Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 – closes out the track’s celebration of 50 years of racing.
And when the speedway’s 50th season comes to a close Sunday afternoon, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping to be the driver standing in victory lane as the summer starts to wind down not only for vacationers, but also for the NASCAR Cup Series regular season as drivers prepare for the quickly approaching playoffs.
Busch will look to keep running up front this weekend at Michigan, starting with an improvement over the solid fifth-place finish he earned at the 2-mile oval in June. Busch looks to use that strong run as momentum this weekend at a facility where he struggled with five finishes of 30th or worse immediately after the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season. However, things have turned a corner for Busch as the Las Vegas native’s top-five finish at Michigan in June was his third top-five finish in a row there and fifth top-10 in a row.
The biggest success for Busch at Michigan actually came in the last race on the old surface at Michigan on Aug. 21, 2011, when he found himself outdueling now seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson for the win in a late-race shootout for his first and only Cup Series win at the track.
With Interstate Batteries returning to the No. 18 car this weekend, Busch is encouraging fans to stop by a local Interstate dealer to get their vehicle batteries checked before taking off on their late-summer vacation. Hot weather has a far greater effect on batteries than the cold, so this weekend’s race at a popular summer tourist destination like the Great Lakes State of Michigan is the perfect setting to remind fans to have their batteries checked.
So, as Busch and the Interstate Batteries team head back to the Midwest this weekend with an “Outrageously Dependable” Interstate Battery under the hood, the confidence built from the past five starts at Michigan should pay dividends this weekend. But he knows chances are he’ll need to outduel several others in order to capture his second career Cup Series victory in the Irish Hills of Michigan as he looks to be celebrating a perfect Sunday afternoon by the lake.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel going into Michigan and what does that track mean for you guys on the schedule?
“We just try to figure out what we can continue to do to evolve and get better there. The setup there equates nothing to anything that we race throughout the playoffs, so really it’s just a track that we have to go to and do the best we can. But, beyond that, you never want to give away any opportunities to go out there and win a race or to excel or to take momentum away from what you’re doing with our Interstate Batteries Camry. We’ve put a focus on that track for the last two years and we’ve gained. We’ve certainly made improvements. I think we’ve run well there and our finishes are starting to show it.”
Does taking the same approach you have following the Kansas repave also benefit you at a place like Michigan?
“Our team has come a long way at Kansas, that’s for sure. To get a win there was a really big deal for our team. I give my guys a lot of credit for working hard to find something I was more comfortable with there. Our whole team has shown how well we’ve worked together, and that he (crew chief Adam Stevens) has been a really quick study, so I think the same direction is starting to work at Michigan. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on getting better there the last few years. We are working on improving as an organization not only on the resurfaced tracks, but overall in general, and it showed there the last couple of years. Everyone is working their guts out to get our stuff better there and we made a lot of progress in June. I’m looking forward to getting out there in practice and seeing what we can learn with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”
How important are restarts considering the style of racing today?
“There has been way more gamesmanship with restarts this year because it’s priority number one on trying to make passes. You have about three laps to make passes and get yourself in position essentially before everything single files out. When it starts to single file out, that’s kind of it. Like Loudon a few weeks back, it was kind of that way. There were a few guys who could pass and get up front. Dover’s definitely that way, Pocono’s definitely that way. Once you get yourselves single file and strung out, the aero effects are just too great to overcome. Restarts are everything. There’s certain gamesmanship that’s being played on restarts. It’s been a lot more this year. Everybody’s understanding that, realizing that. I would agree that it’s about time NASCAR stepped in or all of us are going to continue to see what we could get away with.”
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?
“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom more and more every race there as the groove widens out. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But, with the new surface, there is a ton of grip now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps, and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now, the tire wear is all out the window and the racetrack is very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it. The surface is finally starting to wear in a bit and we have learned a lot there. I would certainly like to get back to victory lane there for Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman) and everyone at Interstate Batteries.”
Interstate Batteries Racing
Race 23 of 36 – Consumers Energy 400– Michigan
Car No.: 18 – Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry
Teammates: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Erik Jones – 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: Tyler Allen
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana
Spotter: Tony Hirschman
Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Matt Tyrrell
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Front Tire Changer: Cam Waugh
Hometown: Johnstown, Colorado
Jackman: T.J. Ford
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Joe Crossen
Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina
Rear Tire Changer: Jeff Cordero
Hometown: Salem, Connecticut
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
Mechanic: Wesley Lape
Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
Race Engineer: William Hartman
Hometown: Laingsburg, Michigan
Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase
Hometown: Nichols, New York
Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones
Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Interior Mechanic: Todd Foster
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Notes of Interest:
The Consumers Energy 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 521st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 30th NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Busch has career totals of 55 wins, 31 poles, 194 top-five finishes, 287 top-10s and 16,865 laps led in 520 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in June at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s and has led a total of 255 laps in 29 Cup Series starts at Michigan. Busch’s average Michigan finish is 17.9.
Regular-Season Race: Following the race at Watkins Glen last weekend, Busch now sits 13 points ahead of Joey Logano in the regular-season standings. Busch has four wins to Logano’s two victories so far this season. With four races to go in the regular season, both are battling it out for the 15-point playoff bonus for winning the regular-season title. Busch has 28 playoff points to lead all drivers while Logano has 17.
55 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Pocono this past June, the 55th points-paying win of his career, Busch sits tied for ninth all-time in Cup Series wins with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August 2017, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup Series wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Herb Thomas.
All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 51 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Bristol, along with besting Stewart’s Cup Series career win total.
206: Busch enters the weekend at Michigan with 206 wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (55), Xfinity (95) and Truck (56) – following his most recent Cup Series win at Pocono in June.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!