When Martinsville (Va.) Speedway installed lights starting in late 2016 to be used for the 2017 season and beyond, track officials had aspirations to one day run a NASCAR Cup Series that started and ended under those lights. That vision became a reality in 2019 when it was announced that there would be a true night race in May of 2020.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans, and the race was postponed until the Cup Series got back to racing in 2020. While the inaugural night race originally scheduled for Saturday night, May 9, will now happen this Wednesday night, much like everything else in our world, it will be run under different circumstances than originally planned.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to the .526-mile short track for 500 laps of racing in Wednesday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. He’s coming off a solid runner-up finish Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he notched his second consecutive top-five finish and his sixth top-five finish in the 10 races contested so far this season.
As for his record at paperclip-shaped half-mile oval, Busch has some impressive recent statistics. In his last nine starts there, Busch has two wins to go along with eight top-five finishes as the M&M’S Fudge Brownie driver is a staple at the front of the field at the Virginia short track. Martinsville was a much bigger challenge for Busch earlier in his career, especially during his early years racing under the JGR banner. In fact, Busch finished outside the top-10 in three of his first four races there with JGR in 2008 and 2009, but has come into his own there in recent years along with crew chief Adam Stevens.
Busch will no doubt shine bright under the lights with the scheme for the new M&M’S Fudge Brownie product adorning his No. 18 Toyota for the third time this season. The sharp, new look highlights the newest permanent addition to the M&M’S lineup. M&M’S Fudge Brownie is in stores now and features the fresh-out-the-oven brownie taste without the hassle of baking.
So as Busch and the rest of his NASCAR Cup Series competitors head to Martinsville for the third Wednesday night race of the season, the defending Series champion is hoping to be in the spot that will shine brightest after Martinsville’s first true night race – victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel about the race this week at Martinsville?
“We’ve run well there, the last four years especially, at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around. We led a lot of laps and we’ve been really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there a few times before and get our M&M’s Fudge Brownie Camry in victory lane there on Wednesday. Obviously it will be a bit different than last year with a different package so I think that will lend to our strengths. The first set of races with that package were positive and hopefully we have another good race with it this week. So far so good.”
What is the key to you getting a win at Martinsville?
“It’s a tough racetrack and, any time you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”
What do you feel is the biggest key to performing well in the longer races like this week at Martinsville?
“I think just being able to get comfortable, get settled, and make sure that you’re good to go for those long hauls. Don’t worry about what lap it is, ever, during a race. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you. You just try to not ever worry about what lap you’re on or what’s going on around you. You just keep battling, keep driving, keep your focus forward on what you’re doing. That’s the best way to go about those long, long races.”
Where have you put the Martinsville Speedway grandfather clocks you’ve won?
“One’s at home in the foyer and I had to turn off the buzzer because it’s close to (son) Brexton’s room, so we don’t get to hear it. We heard it a couple of times while it went off, but then I turned it off. And then, the other ones, we have at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports).”
M&M’S Fudge Brownie Racing
Race 11 of 36 – Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 – Martinsville
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 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 545th career NASCAR Cup Series start and his 30th NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 206 top-five finishes, 302 top-10s and 17,552 laps led in 544 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 two wins, 16 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s and has led a total of 1,424 laps in 29 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville. Busch’s average Martinsville finish is 12.1.
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 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.
210 and Counting: Busch enters Wednesday’s race at Martinsville with 210 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (97) and Truck (57) – following his Xfinity Series victory at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!