(All) Star Gazing at the Colosseum
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 13, 2020) – For the first time since 1986 and only the second time in the event’s history, the NASCAR All-Star Race will be held at a venue other than Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the change in venue will be a welcome one, as the event will be held at a track where victory lane is quite familiar to him after his eight wins there – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The inaugural All-Star Race was held at Charlotte in 1985 and moved to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 1986 edition. The event moved back to Charlotte in 1987, where it has been held for the past 32 years. History will be made this week with the first ever All-Star Race held at a place nicknamed “The Last Great Colosseum” and one that seems to be tailor-made for this event.
Busch locked in his spot for Wednesday night’s main event – comprised primarily of 2019 and 2020 Cup Series race winners, plus past All-Star Race winners and past series champions – via his five series wins and Cup Series title in 2019. The Las Vegas native not only has earned the title of All-Star, he has recorded 211 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions and sits alone in ninth on the all-time Cup Series wins list with 56.
Along with the tradition of including race winners and champions, the NASCAR All-Star Race has also been a place where the sport has tested various new wrinkles to see if they might be worthy of adding to the series’ points-paying races. The 2020 All-Star Race may have more new wrinkles than ever. First, teams and sponsors have the opportunity to move the car number further back on each side panel with creative new paint schemes that will be different than the traditional number placement centered on the door panel. Secondly, each car locked into the All-Star Race will have underglow lightning installed with colors to match their manufacturer. Busch’s M&M’s Toyota will have red LED strip lighting in line with the other Toyota Camrys in the All-Star field.
Last but certainly not least, there will be a major competition change for Wednesday night’s All-Star race when it comes to restarts as the choose rule will be in place, which is a mainstay of short-track racing across the country. When drivers approach a designated spot on the track in the laps leading up to a restart, they must commit to the inside or outside lane. Failure to make a clear choice or changing lanes after the designated spot will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane. Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision, and strategy will come into play in every instance.
Busch will hope he can add another All-Star and Bristol win to his already impressive resume by bringing home the first Bristol All-Star win. He recorded his eighth career Bristol victory in the NASCAR Cup Series last April, extending his margin of most wins there among active drivers. Only his older brother Kurt is close in the number of wins with six victories at the .533-mile bullring.
The two-time and defending Cup Series champion holds the distinction of being the only driver in NASCAR history to win all three national series races in a single weekend, which he’s done twice at Bristol. He captured the “Bristol Triple” in 2010 and 2017 when he swept NASCAR’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series races. In addition to his eight career Cup Series wins, Busch has 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 30 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.”
So, as Busch and the M&M’S team head to Bristol for the midweek tilt under the bright lights of the Bristol short track, he’ll hope his star will shine the brightest as the All-Stars will wage battle in NASCAR’s Colosseum.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on the All-Star Race being at Bristol for the first time?
“Bristol is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m really happy that the All-Star Race will be there this week. It’s been a good place for us over the years. We had a good run there in the first race, and I think we can take some notes from that first race and apply them for this week. It’s probably the best we’ve been at a track since we’ve come back racing. Hoping we can have a good run with our M&M’S Camry. They are trying out a few things like the choose cone and the lights underneath. It’s a good opportunity to try some new things, but we’ll still want to bring home that million (dollars, first price) and try to win that thing if we can.”
You make Bristol look easy at times when it seemed difficult for others. What’s the key to that?
“Bristol is kind of a finicky place. You’re used to running on asphalt every week and so the concrete can throw you for a little bit of a loop. But that place ages and the track changes, there’s some little nuances that change with the racing surface and the line, they’re always changing something. We had the old concrete there and then they went to this progressive style concrete and then they ground the top and then they spread the PJ1 on the bottom, and now you run the bottom but you end up going back to the top at the end the race. It’s just paying attention to the days leading up to it, with the Xfinity race or Trucks in the fall and getting your eyes on the track and seeing what it’s doing. We were fortunate to have already run there not too long ago, so hopefully we can unload close with our M&M’S Camry since the race isn’t very long and we won’t have too many opportunities to improve the car in such a short race.”
With a good run there back in late May, what are you expecting on Wednesday night?
“We got to see the way that PJ1 is sprayed down and how and where it’s sprayed down and what the cars do during the race, so hopefully they keep that the way they did it during the first race there. Normally when we have practice, we get to lay some rubber down. So we get to groom the racetrack in before the race and we are not doing that. We are going to have to start cold turkey, but unlike the first time we have some notes on what the track was like without any rubber being laid down before the race starts.”
What makes Bristol Motor Speedway so unique?
“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best racetracks on the circuit. All the fans love it because of the excitement, the run-ins and the close-quarter action with all the cars being packed on top of one another at a half-mile racetrack with us 40 lunatics running around in a tight circle. With the fans, the atmosphere there always makes for a good time and sometimes a frustrating time when things don’t always go your way.”
What is your first memory of Bristol and what is your best story of success?
“I remember my first time. It was in an Xfinity Series car at a test session for Hendrick Motorsports. I remember I needed about 27 laps before I thought I was going to knock the wall down, with all the optimism and pumped-up feelings I had about going there. But after that, it’s been pretty fun. We’ve had some challenging times there, but also I’ve had some good times there. What’s the highlight? You can’t dismiss the sweeps there. I would say that the first one was really, really awesome and really, really special, and the second one was special, as well.”
Notes of Interest:
- The NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway will mark Kyle Busch’s 15th appearance in the non-points event.
- ‘Bring Home the Steering Wheel or the Trophy:’ Busch has led 236 laps in his 14 previous All-Star Race starts and brought home his first win in his 12th start in the non-points event three years ago with a three-wide move on the final restart.
- Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 207 top-five finishes, 305 top-10s and 17,561 laps led in 551 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 eight wins, 13 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s and has led a total of 2,434 laps in 30 career Cup Series starts at Bristol. Busch’s average Bristol finish is 13.1.
- 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 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.
- 211 and Counting: Busch currently sits at 211 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (97) and Truck (58) – following his Truck Series win at Homestead last month.