A (Nose) For Victory
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (May 7, 2019) – A quick look at the win column so far in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season shows at least one thing is clear – Kyle Busch has had a nose for victory with three wins in the first 11 races contested.
Furthermore, as Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City for Saturday night’s Cup Series Digital Ally 400, he’ll not only have an excellent shot at bringing home his fourth win of the season, but at the very least continuing a top-10 streak that dates back to November of last season –13 races in a row.
With his top-10 finish in Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Busch tied Morgan Shepherd’s Cup Series modern-era record set in 1990 with 11 straight top-10 finishes to start the season. However, anyone who knows Busch also is aware he’s never content with just bringing home a top-10. His clear goal is to win every race he can. So as the series heads to Kansas, there was a time not long ago when Busch’s goal was to simply finish the race there.
The 1.5-mile oval was built in 2001 and originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns. But it underwent a massive renovation project leading into its October 2012 event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, he had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time, for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.
Feeling snakebit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked Kansas with the hopes that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result and effort was much different than the three previous trips. Instead, they were competitive enough to turn the corner in terms of results.
In the October 2014 Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at Kansas. Again, the 2015 Cup Series champion has never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum kickstarted by his first top-five at Kansas in October 2014 has remained to this day. Finally, with the surface starting to wear, Kansas has become a place much more agreeable to Busch’s driving style as he has six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in his last eight starts there, including his first Kansas win coming two years ago in this very race with the M&M’S Red Nose Day scheme adorning the No. 18 Toyota.
Busch’s special M&M’S Red Nose Day scheme marks the fifth year in a row M&M’S has partnered with Red Nose Day to help children in need, with the aforementioned Kansas win sporting the M&M’S Red Nose Day scheme back in 2016 adding to the celebrations over the years. M&M’S is donating more than $1 million to the Red Nose Day Fund to ensure children in need are safe, healthy and educated, both in the United States and around the world. Fans can join the Red Nose Day fun by picking up a Red Nose at local Walgreens stores and sharing a picture on social media channels using the hashtag #NosesOn.
As he and the Cup Series head to Kansas for Saturday’s race under the lights, Busch will bring his (red) nose for victory and, if he succeeds, he would leave with his second career Cup Series win in the Heartland of America and fourth of the season, which would greatly solidify his spot on top of the point standings and his early season playoff outlook.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Red Nose DayToyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are some of the challenges racing at Kansas?
“Going to Kansas, it is a night race, so it is cool to be able to race on Saturday night and have Sunday off. The challenge to Kansas is just going to be what it takes with this new package and the faster speeds. Or I guess, we won’t be faster at Kansas, you have the 550 (horsepower) package there. We will see what that is going to be. Is it going to be wide open or is the draft going to be in effect? Where is the groove going to be? Typically, it has been on the high side where the banking is the highest, so that is kind of what you look at going to Kansas.”
What did it mean to win at yet another track for the first time in the Cup Series when you were able to add Kansas to the list?
“Until the 2014 season, I’d not had very many opportunities to win at Kansas and hopefully we can get into victory lane there again this weekend with our M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota. I’m excited about that opportunity and working with this team of guys and (crew chief) Adam Stevens and everybody he has assembled. It’s so much fun. As you’ve seen so far this year, there are certain circumstances that can go against you, and you just have to persevere and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls, as we’ve won some races even though we hadn’t had the dominant car in a few of those and have been able to bring home wins with good cars, too. Really excited for what M&M’S does with Red Nose Day and the money they donate to children in need. Hope that fans are able to support the cause any way they can.”
What is the significance of you becoming the first driver in almost 30 years to have 11 top-10 finishes to start the year?
“It is good, it is cool. It is kind of on our mind right now going into every week. We want to win. That is what we strive to do every time we hit the track. We thought it would come to an end at a place like Talladega and it was close. We were right on the verge, but we made it through another one. We had another opportunity to go to the Monster Mile and try to come out of there with another top-10 finish. We have really had some back luck there in the spring race for several years, now, but we were able to get out of there with a top-10, as well. Hopefully at Kansas we can keep it going, but I would much rather us be up there fighting for the win with our M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota than to just try to finish in the top-10. That’s not what we come to the racetrack for. We want to win but, if we can’t, we try to do the best we can with what is given to us that day.”
Have you looked forward to racing at Kansas more since you won there?
“I do. Also, I did even the last few times before we won there three years ago when we had some really strong runs. We finished in the top-five, I think, six races in a row and we have also been in the top-10 for the last eight races there, so it’s a place we’ve really picked it up at. We’ve seemed to have gotten a setup or ahold of that place, I’d say, and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around and we can continue our strong runs and our fast pace of being able to have a shot to win.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Digital Ally 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 510th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 23rd NASCAR Cup Series start at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
- Busch has career totals of 54 wins, 31 poles, 189 top-five finishes, 280 top-10s and 16,454 laps led in 509 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last month at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
- Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s and has led a total of 327 laps in 22 career Cup Series starts at Kansas. Busch’s average Kansas finish is 16.3.
- 11-for-11: Busch has notched top-10 finishes in each of the 11 races contested so far this season in NASCAR’s top series. Six of those were top-fives, along with three victories. Morgan Shepherd finished in the top-10 for the first 11 races of the 1990 season, which is the record for NASCAR’s modern era. Busch tied Shepherd with his 11th top-10 finish in Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.