As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the 2-mile oval’s first-ever doubleheader weekend, Kyle Busch is looking for a little bit of the Luck of the Irish.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is looking to bounce back from some terrible luck last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where a cut tire just 15 laps into the race resulted in contact with the outside wall to end his day prematurely.
The good news is that Busch will have not one, but two chances to turn his luck around this weekend. The series heads to the lightning-fast track situated in Michigan’s “Irish Hills” approximately 80 miles southwest of Detroit for Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 and Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400.
While the area near the track is known as the Irish Hills, it’s not because of any Irish heritage. During the 19th century, that 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.
Busch scored his first Michigan Cup Series win in August 2011. Then the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season and, while he scored a solid fourth-place finish on the new surface in June 2013, he has not had the results to match his high standards since. However, his 2018 and 2019 stops on the Michigan circuit netted three top-five finishes and no finish worse than sixth, which has gotten Busch closer to what he looks for week in and week out at any track.
So, as Busch and the M&M’S Fudge Brownie team head to the Upper Midwest this weekend, they hope to find the Luck of the Irish (Hills) with two chances to make it to victory lane for the first time this season and the second time in his career in the Irish Hills of Michigan.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You brought home top-five finishes in three of your last four races at Michigan. What do you expect this weekend?
“I’m not entirely sure. We’ll just go into the race with our best guess and go from there. We had a lot of struggles on the repave but turned that around the last several times there. We’ve certainly gotten a better handle on the place the last several races there, so I don’t know if it’s because the surface has worn in a little bit more, or we’ve been able to put things together better. Much like Pocono, I’m hoping we can have a solid run on Saturday, and then work on our car overnight and even have a better handle on it Sunday. At Pocono, we just weren’t able to see the results because of getting wrecked out there about halfway, so we’ll look to get in a better position at Michigan this weekend and have a good run with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry.”
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 have a solid day with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry so we con solidify ourselves a bit more. 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.”
Do you expect the track surface to be worn in a little bit more this year?
“I expect it to be fast, still. There’s still a lot of grip, but I’m hoping it’s starting to get worn in like Kansas did. But if you’re just a little bit loose there, now you’renervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck, like it has in the past. It was really intense last year in the races there. You are hauling there now in the turns, for sure, and we know that corner speeds are up overall this year at other places.”
What are the most critical adjustments you can make between each race at Michigan?
“Obviously springs, shocks, bars, whatever you can change, all that sort of stuff – making some adjustments. Knowing how much the track changes in that first race will give you a basis to how much you expect it to change in the second race, barring any weather or the track. If it’s a 68-degree day one day and a 90-degree day the next, there are going to be some big differences you’re going to want to adjust for and compensate for. Having a good notebook will certainly, I think, help with us and our team, and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) being on board since 2015 with some experience there. I think Adam did a great job of adjusting between races at the Pocono doubleheader. We just weren’t able to see the results for it.”
M&M’S Fudge Brownie Racing
Rounds 21 & 22 of 36 – Michigan Doubleheader – Brooklyn
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.
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:
Saturday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 and Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 555th and 556th career NASCAR Cup Series starts and his 31st and 32nd Cup Series starts at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 208 top-five finishes, 306 top-10s and 17,633 laps led in 554 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, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led a total of 258 laps in 30 career Cup Series starts at Michigan. Busch’s average Michigan finish is 17.5.
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 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.
212 and Counting: Busch enters Michigan with 212 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (97) and Truck (58) – following his Truck Series win at Texas Motor Speedway last month.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!