Adding to the Win List in the Valley in the Sun
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (March 14, 2017) – It’s not too often that rain makes it’s way to the desert, but that won’t stop race fans from seeing a “Rainbow” as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series continues its West Coast swing to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s Camping World 500k.
That’s because Kyle Busch will pilot the rainbow-colored No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and looks to add to his strong record racing in Phoenix and the strong tradition of the Skittles colors in NASCAR racing.
Busch and company will head to the Valley of the Sun looking to Rock the Rainbow for the fourth consecutive year with the now-familiar Skittles colors that will adorn the No. 18 Toyota for the first of four races this season. The Skittles brand made its NASCAR debut in 1998 in partnership with MB2 Motorsports on the No. 36 Pontiac for driver Derrike Cope. In 1999, driver Ernie Irvan took the wheel of the Skittles No. 36 Pontiac and went on to take the top starting spot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch has delivered back-to-back victories for Skittles in the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis the past two summers, with candy-splashed victory lanes for the Skittles brand.
Heading into this Sunday’s race at the mile oval just west of Phoenix, Busch is still looking to score his first win of the season and automatically seal a berth into this year’s NASCAR playoffs.
The desert setting of Phoenix was been a favorite place to wheel a racecar for Busch long before he joined the Cup Series ranks. And the results since have certainly shown, starting with a solid eighth-place finish in his very first Cup Series outing there in the spring of 2005, followed by just his second career Cup Series victory in his very next start there that fall. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Cup Series win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where the West Coast swing will conclude next week.
In 23 Cup Series starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win and an impressive 15 top-10 finishes, including four in a row from the spring 2007 through fall 2008 events, and he won the pole for the spring 2006 race. Busch also was in position to win Cup Series races at Phoenix in 2010, as well as the February 2011 race, and both races there in 2012, but things never fell his way. Since then, he’s added three top-five finishes in a row at Phoenix, and is getting ever so close to his first Cup Series win with JGR at Phoenix.
So as the Cup Series moves on to the middle race of 2017’s West Coast swing, Busch will hope that Rocking the Rainbow will be just what he needs to bring home his first victory of the season and continue his hot streak racing in the Valley of the Sun.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel the potential of the JGR cars is at Phoenix?
“We still have work to do there, but I definitely think we were headed in the right direction there last year in both races. We had a good enough position that we were able to finish well and transfer through to Homestead there last fall, with (Matt) Kenseth and Denny (Hamlin) having good cars there, as well. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and making some laps and hopefully having a good racecar with our Skittles Camry.”
What were your expectations with the lower downforce package?
“I don’t think this was a surprise to anyone that the lower downforce package was going to hinder anybody. We all knew it and expected it and we worked on it through the offseason as best we could to get ready and prepare. But there are some other groups that maybe have done a better job of preparing for it than we have. You know, we’ve just got to go to work on some fundamentals and some things that will get our racecars feeling better, feeling better alone, feeling better in traffic, being able to pass cars, having the speed that we need to have. It seems like we can have the speed for one or two laps. You know, we qualified pretty decent last week. It seems like a couple of our teammates here this week have a couple of good qualifying efforts in practice there, so we’ve just got to get better with the long haul.”
How important are the points drivers can get from race stages?
“They will be, definitely. Unfortunately for us, we’ve only been able to score a only a small amount of those bonus points that have been available through all the rounds. We won the first round in Daytona and were the first-ever round winners, segment winners, whatever – stage winners. There are so many words for it, figure it out, you know. We’re not scoring them, so we need to be able to get back to where we need to in order to score those points and have that opportunity to excel in the Chase and, more importantly, get back to victory lane, too.”
What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?
“You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but heading there with our Skittles Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out and if it’s changed at all since last year.”
In addition to 10 Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix, you also won in your second Cup Series start at the mile oval. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave. For some reason, I’ve always run well there. I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you have two distinctly different corners at Phoenix.”
Notes of Interest
• The Camping World 500k will mark Kyle Busch’s 430th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 24th NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway.
• Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 147 top-five finishes, 219 top-10s and 12,374 laps led in 429 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in July 2016 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he brought home his second consecutive win at the historic 2.5-mile oval. Busch’s win came from the pole position, his most recent pole and the 19th of his career.
• Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and 15 top-10s and has led a total of 585 laps in 23 career Cup Series starts at Phoenix. Busch’s average Phoenix finish is 12.9.
• Taste the Rainbow: The Skittles colors will adorn Busch’s No. 18 Toyota for the first of four races this season starting at Phoenix this weekend. The remaining Skittles races are in April at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
• 38 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Indianapolis last July, the 38th of his career, Busch is tied for 19th on the all-time Cup Series win list with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Matt Kenseth.
• Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, Busch has won Cup Series races at 21 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only two tracks he has yet to conquer in the Cup Series are Pocono (Pa) Raceway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four of Busch’s last six Cup Series wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas). Of the 21 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
• All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 last July, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 34 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33.
• 170 and Counting: Busch enters Phoenix with 170 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (38), Xfinity (87) and Truck (46) following his NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season.