As far as auto racing in the United States, the two racing facilities fans think of first more times than not are Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ever since the 2.5-mile high-banked Daytona oval opened in 1959, the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at Daytona on Fourth of July weekend. From 1959 to 1997, the series competed on the morning of July 4, no matter what day of the week the holiday fell on. Starting in 1998, the event was moved to the first Saturday night in July after lights made their debut at the World Center of Racing that season.
The Daytona Fourth of July tradition will finally come to an end in 2020 as its traditional second Cup Series race each season has moved to the end of August as the regular-season finale. Meanwhile, another iconic track filled with history takes its place this weekend – the 111-year old Indianapolis oval – by way of Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles America Mix Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), loves making history, and there’s nothing more he would like than to win his third career race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval and add himself to an elite list of stock-car winners.
With his Brickyard 400 wins in 2015 and 2016, Busch became just the second driver to win the event back-to-back. The only other driver to do so is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who accomplished the feat in 2008 and 2009.
There are relatively few winners of multiple stock car races at Indianapolis to begin with in the race’s 26-year history. Just four drivers reside on that list, and Busch wants to add his name as the fifth driver to win at least three Cup Series races at the Brickyard. Busch hopes to one day catch five-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, who scored his wins in 1994, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2014, and four-time winner Johnson, who sandwiched his back-to-back victories with his first win there in 2006 and his most recent win in 2012. Busch also looks to break his tie with Indiana native Tony Stewart, who won in 2005 and 2007, and Dale Jarrett, who won in 1996 and 1999, as two-time Brickyard 400 winners.
Busch has always been a frontrunner at Indianapolis with an impressive 11 top-10 finishes in 15 starts there for an average finish of 12.5. But until he led the final 19 laps in his first Brickyard 400 victory in 2015, and a whopping 149 of the 170 laps in his 2016 victory, Busch had led just 42 laps there in his 10 visits prior to 2015. In addition to his strong Cup Series record at Indianapolis, he also has four wins and five top-five finishes in his seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Indianapolis, including a victory last year.
To get further into celebrating Independence Day this weekend, Busch’s No. 18 Toyota will feature the Skittles America Mix scheme.Each bag of Skittles America Mix contains a fun, fruit flavored, and patriotic mix of red, white and blue candies. The patriotic-themed Skittles are a must-have for celebrating this weekend – and of course – a great snack while watching a NASCAR Cup Series race. They available at retailers nationwide through the end of August.
So it goes without saying Busch would like nothing more than to enjoy the taste of Skittles America Mix, along with the taste of kissing the famous Yard of Bricks for a third time in his Cup Series career. While twice is nice, the third time would put him in elite company in stock-car history at Indianapolis on NASCAR’s first ever trip away from Daytona on Fourth of July weekend.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles America Mix Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What makes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so special for you as a driver?
“I think the biggest thing about the Brickyard is the prestige – the track’s history and quality of racing, all the historic finishes it’s had over the years, whether it’s been IndyCar or NASCAR. To me, it’s a special place to go to because of its heritage of being Indianapolis. Every guy in NASCAR, and especially every guy in IndyCar, they want to win there. So hoping we can get our first win of the season there and bring our Skittles America Mix Camry to victory lane there again and be known as a three-time winner there.”
Is it still important to a driver to win a Daytona 500, Southern 500 and Brickyard 400?
“It is. It certainly was special winning both of the Brickyard races. I think that, for myself and the 18 team, winning there two years in a row was thrilling. It was really special as a whole team, and they treat it very special there, as well, with the whole ceremony postrace and everything that goes on there with taking the ride around the track and the owner being with you. J.D. (Gibbs) being there with us on that first Brickyard win was very special and a memory I will always have. That was pretty cool. It is a big deal. I feel like it is for us. For our team, we circle it on the calendar every year – that’s one we want to win. We always circle the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, the All-Star Race, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Championship Race. There are probably a couple more in there that you want to win, such as any one race within each round of the playoffs. You want to win any of those to get yourself locked in and moving on to the next round just to solidify your chances of being able to win a championship. But it’s obviously a big race, and I guess it still pays pretty decent, so you might as well win it and we are going to try just that this weekend with our Skittles America Mix Camry.”
Can you carry anything over from Pocono to Indy since there’s no practice, now?
“That’s definitely a question for Adam (Stevens, crew chief). I can do my best here, but I would think there are definitely some similarities in setup you can kind of look at and we’ll definitely take notice, especially with what we learned at Pocono over those two races. Is Indy typically closer to our first Pocono race or our second Pocono race that’s usually on the schedule, I’m not sure. As far as the overall skeptic of it, you would think whatever you have or some ideas you have that are good at Pocono can transfer to Indy. And having those races in back-to-back weeks could act as somewhat of a simulation to where you’re fine-tuning your stuff from the simulator to the real thing at Pocono. And then having someone go back and redoing the simulator to make sure it’s right, and then the data that they are looking at to get ready for Indy is the exact stuff that you want.”
Is there something you’ve figured out there, or have you just run well there?
“I think it’s a little bit of both. I think I figured a little bit of something out, but I also think that me figuring something out has helped us be able to develop our car better, too. Like, setup-wise, I know what I need within the car now that makes you faster at Indy than what I had been running in the past.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks the NASCAR Cup Series visits?
“It’s very tight down the straightaways. You roll through (turns) one and two and there are people on the inside, there are people on the outside, there are people in the grass, just sitting along the back straightaway on the inside. You’ve got the golf course there and fans sitting on the hills underneath the trees. You start back up into turn three, with the grandstands going around (turns) three and four, and then down the frontstretch and, again, there are two tunnels. There’s a tunnel at the (turns) one and two side, and on the (turns) three and four side. There’s a center road that runs all the way through and then, coming down the frontstretch again, looking on both sides of you, you’ve got the pit road, which is really narrow and really tight, and the grandstands on the inside and the outside. So, you’re going down a ‘V’ of just people in most years. Coming to the Pagoda and the media center, the way it is, and of course the scoring pylon being as tall as it is, you come down there and, if you’re leading the race, sometimes you can’t see that high, so you’re kind of wondering who is second and third, or who is behind you. It stinks when you’re running in the back because you can see yourself (car number) right there.”
Skittles America Mix Racing
Race 16 of 36 – Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 – Indianapolis
Car No.: 18 – Skittles America Mix 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 Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 550th career NASCAR Cup Series starts and his 16th Cup Series start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 207 top-five finishes, 304 top-10s and 17,561 laps led in 559 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, five top-five finishes and 11 top-10s and has led a total of 324 laps in 15 career Cup Series starts at Indianapolis. Busch’s average Indianapolis finish is 12.5.
6 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 on the list for Busch 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 November.
211 and Counting: Busch enters this weekend at Indianapolis with 211 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (97) and Truck (58) – following his Truck Series win at Homestead three weekends ago.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING TO REDNECK!