Finale in the Desert
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Nov. 3, 2021) – As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the Season Finale 500k, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S team are focused on playing the part of spoiler as stock car racing’s premier series decides its champion on Sunday afternoon in the Arizona desert.
Despite finishing second in last Sunday’s Round of 8 elimination race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), ended up three points behind the cutoff position to narrowly miss his sixth career berth in the Championship 4.
On Sunday at Phoenix, Busch will look to win at a place where he knows victory lane well. Busch won at Phoenix for the first time in the fall of 2006, but went 12 years before his next turn at tasting victory there when he won back-to-back in the fall 2018 and spring 2019 races. Those were the first two events on the renovated and reconfigured track surface with the start-finish line moved from what is now the backstretch over to the dogleg in front of the new main grandstand. Busch, in fact, has led a whopping 491 laps since the track was reconfigured and has added two more top-five finishes to those aforementioned wins at Phoenix.
While the M&M’S driver went 25 races between wins on the mile oval, he has been incredibly consistent throughout his career there. In 32 Cup Series starts at the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has 12 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s while scoring top-fives in nine of his last 12 starts there, which includes his back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019.
So as the Cup Series season comes to an end, the two-time Cup Series champion has one thing on his mind Sunday at Phoenix – he and the M&M’S team hope for one last shot at another 2021 victory during the finale in the desert.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do you have some confidence at Phoenix with how much success you’ve had there as of late?
“I really like Phoenix and we won there a couple of times the last few years. So much has changed since then. It’s entirely different now, so maybe we can still be good when we go back there. We’ll see what we have this weekend with our M&M’S Camry and we would like nothing better than to take another trophy home.”
You won two of the first four Cup Series races at the mile oval following the reconfiguration. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave and then more recently flipping the start-finish line to a different spot. 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 sets of corners at Phoenix.”
You have good memories at Phoenix. How does that play into this weekend?
“The last several times we’ve been to Phoenix, we’ve run pretty good, but a few tough finishes in there for various reasons. Hopefully, that can translate to this time around again. We were good at Richmond and normally Richmond translates good there. Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway), that translates there, even though we didn’t get to see how good we could be there this summer. I think we can do OK. It’s just a matter of running another clean race and not making mistakes.”
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 M&M’S Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out.”