Until last Wednesday night’s event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the last time the NASCAR Cup Series ran a race on a Wednesday was almost 36 years ago – the Firecracker 400 on July 4, 1984. Back then, no matter on what day July 4 fell, NASCAR’s top series raced at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. That 1984 Firecracker 400 also happened to be one of the more memorable races in NASCAR history, as Richard Petty brought home the 200th win of his Cup Series career.
While the race last week at Darlington marked the first Wednesday Cup Series race in more than three decades, the next midweek event is set for just seven days later. The series heads back to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Wednesday night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k as NASCAR continues to make up races lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected events of every kind, not only in the United States but all over the world.
This Wednesday night, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will look to improve on his most recent outing, which resulted in a fourth-place finish in Sunday night’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Busch ran up front for most of the first portion of the race, but a pit road speeding penalty sent him to the rear of the field. However, he and the M&M’S team were able to rally back to bring home his fourth top-five finish in seven races this season. Wednesday night’s 500-kilometer race replaces the cancelled race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway originally scheduled for June. With a second-place finish last Wednesday at Darlington and the fourth-place run Sunday night at Charlotte, Busch is hoping the Sonoma replacement race nets him his third top-five in a row and first win of the season.
Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval. He now has 14 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s in his 31 previous Cup Series starts there over the past 14-plus seasons. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured eight NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Charlotte – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, and both May and October 2013. He also has eight NASCAR Truck Series wins at the track – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
While he had gone to Charlotte’s victory lane at early and often in the Xfinity and Truck Series, Busch only recently broke through in the Cup Series there. His 2017 win in the non-points All-Star Race was his first Cup Series win of any kind at the track. The following year, in 2018, Busch was able to win there again, this time in the points-paying Coca-Cola 600 to add another crown jewel to his already impressive resume.
So as the Cup Series continues its busy run of eight races in less than a month, Busch and his M&M’S Fudge Brownie team hope they can break through for the first of many wins under the Wednesday night lights at Charlotte. He’ll hope to keep the momentum he’s built over the last two races as the season is finally able to kick into full gear for the summer.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
With track position being so important, how will you approach Wednesday night with the inversion of the top-20 grid positions?
“It’s definitely going to be more of a sprint race with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry. Thankfully, my guys are really, really, really good on pit road and they probably passed the most cars Sunday night on pit road – more than I did. It’s definitely beneficial when you can come down pit road 15th, 10th, eighth, seventh, whatever it is, and those guys are going to get you five or six spots. I’m not too upset about where we have to start. We certainly saw that track position was a big deal on Sunday night, so we want to work our way to the front and stay there if we can. I know I’m up for it and the guys on pit road are up for the task, too, with how well they performed on Sunday night.”
It seemed you had some pretty big swings in handling on Sunday night. Will you go back and try and figure out why that was the case and make some changes for Wednesday night?
“The only thing I can really attribute it to is tires. That’s the only thing that makes sense. When you go and you have two runs that are really, really good and you have tires on and you don’t make any changes, and then you make one slight air pressure adjustment with the next set of tires and it goes haywire, you have to think it’s the tires. You didn’t put a wedge wrench in the thing, you didn’t change anything too crazy. Also, track position sometimes, too, is a factor. When you’re further up toward the front, the cars drive way, way better. We had the speeding penalty there and it put it toward the back and it certainly handled differently back there than up at the front of the field. When you get back in the seventh to ninth to 11th range, you are just out of control and have no grip. So I know Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and I will go back and talk about how to make our car better this week and we’ll see what happens.”
Do you feel you’re in race shape now that you’ve run three Cup Series races since the shutdown?
“I felt good after all of these races. We had the race last Sunday at Darlington and it was a little warmer out and I saw a couple of guys get out of the car and kind of sit next to their car and they were pretty wet and kind of hot and overheated maybe a little bit. I felt fine. Then, no issues the last couple of races, certainly a bit easier when they are at night and cooler outside. I’ve got enough cooling and things like that where I feel pretty good and ready to go.”
M&M’S Fudge Brownie Racing
Race 8 of 36 – Alsco Uniforms 500k – Charlotte
Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Fudge Brownie 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
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
Notes of Interest:
The Alsco Uniforms 500k will mark Kyle Busch’s 542nd career NASCAR Cup Series start and his 32nd NASCAR Cup Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 204 top-five finishes, 300 top-10s and 17,446 laps led in 541 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, resulting in his second Cup Series championship. Busch’s most recent pole, the 32nd of his career, came in November at Phoenix Raceway.
Busch has one win, 14 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s and has led a total of 1,449 laps in 31 Cup Series starts at Charlotte. Busch’s average Charlotte finish is 14.2.
Finally: Busch’s combined record in NASCAR Xfinity Series and Truck Series races is quite impressive at Charlotte, where the Las Vegas native has eight wins apiece on the 1.5-mile oval for a total of 16 victories. While he found victory lane early and often at Charlotte in those series, Busch was unable to find similar success in NASCAR’s top series. That all changed starting in 2017, when he brought home the win in the NASCAR All-Star Race, the first Cup Series win of his career at Charlotte, albeit a non-points event. But a little more than a year later, in 2018, Busch was able to bring home his first Cup Series points paying win at Charlotte as he led a whopping 377 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 en route to the crown jewel win
56 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Homestead in November, the 56th points-paying win of his career, Busch passed NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace for sole possession of ninth place on the all-time win list in NASCAR’s top series. Next up for Busch on the list is eighth-place Dale Earnhardt, who had 76 wins during his Hall of Fame career. 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 52 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Homestead last year.
209 and Counting: Busch enters Monday night’s Xfinity Series race at Charlotte with 209 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (96) and Truck (57) – following his Truck Series win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in February.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!