Following the Blueprint to Homestead
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 30, 2018) – As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Toyota team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) continue to follow the blueprint as the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs hit the homestretch.
Why is that the case? With just three races remaining in the Cup Series season, Busch and his team are very much in the championship battle, and a win Sunday at Texas would punch his ticket to the Championship 4 showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.
In each of his last three playoff runs, Busch and his M&M’S team have successfully followed their blueprint to the Championship 4 at Homestead by steadily advancing through each playoff round via solid finishes, his first Championship 4 appearance in 2015 resulting in that year’s championship. With his sights on his fourth straight visit to the Cup Series finale as championship eligible, Busch has brought home seven top-10 finishes in the first seven playoff races this season, including a solid fourth-place finish to kick off the Round of 8 Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
After winning this year’s April race at Texas, Busch looks to also follow the blueprint from that impressive weekend as he attempts to bring home his fourth career Texas Cup Series win. He’s certainly been trending in the right direction at the 1.5-mile oval with seven top-five finishes in his last 10 starts there. He has 26 career Texas starts with 12 top-five finishes.
Along with his three Cup Series wins at Texas, Busch been a frequent visitor to victory lane in most everything he’s raced there. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to 2010 and added three more for a total of eight Xfinity Series wins there. Add his three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010 and 2014 and it’s no wonder Busch is feeling good about his chances of reaching victory lane yet again Sunday.
The Las Vegas native sits atop the standings heading into Sunday’s second race of the Round of 8. Joey Logano punched his ticket to the four-driver, winner-take-all championship shootout at Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville last weekend. Now, Busch sits 49 points above the fifth-place cutline and will look to either solidify his position among the top four drivers in the playoff standings or, better yet, automatically punch his own ticket to the championship round with a win Sunday.
So while Busch and his M&M’S team look to add yet another signature cowboy hat and six-shooters as race winners in the Lone Star State to their steadily growing trophy collection, Busch and his team will continue to follow the blueprint that got them to the Championship 4 during the last three playoff runs by shooting for at least a solid finish Sunday. If all goes according to plan, they once again may be the ones with the best chance to hoist the Cup Series championship trophy down in South Florida in two weeks.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it mean to win at Texas and take some of the pressure off before Homestead? Can that be a detriment, as well?
“Certainly there’s some opportunity there to mess up or over-think things, but I believe any time you’re under pressure or under the amount of stress as what this round is to get yourself into the final four for Homestead, any time you can kind of take a step back and have a clear head is a good time, in my opinion. The pressure that sets in over these next two weeks if you’re behind the cutoff line and trying to get in or whatever, or if you’re right on the cusp of the cutoff line and trying to stay in, that can certainly wear on your team during the week. You try to have other things to do to kind of take your mind off of it a little bit but, overall, this is what we live, eat, breath, sleep, everything. It’s always on our mind.”
What are your thoughts heading into Texas this weekend with the recent repave?
“I wouldn’t say it poses any tougher problems. That place has always been fast and it’s always been one groovish around the bottom and, so far, it’s kind of what we’ve got with the repave. Obviously, you hope that with time and age and the asphalt surface that it gets better and more racey. Not sure we’re really there, yet, especially the time of year we go there now being in November and as chilly as it is. It’s pretty cool so there’s going to be more urgency to run the bottom all the time. That’s tough and it’s always tough for raceability of the track. It was a good place for us before the repave and now, since the repave, I think it’s been a pretty good place for us, as well. We’ve run well there, we won there this spring and hopefully we can continue that sort of momentum there with our M&M’S Camry this weekend.”
Do you have extra confidence knowing you’ve made it to the Championship 4 the last three years?
“I believe every year is a new year, but you certainly can’t forget what you’ve done and what’s gotten you to that point of being in the Championship 4. I do feel like the experience we’ve had and the times that we’ve been there, we can lean on some of that and some of those bullet points that have given us that success to be able to get to the final four and rely on that information over again. Some of these guys who haven’t made it there have made it to the Round of 8 but haven’t been able to transfer through. They’ve certainly learned some of the things of what not to do, but I feel like we just have to continue doing the things we know to do and hopefully that all comes to fruition. Anything can happen, you just have to be smart and figure it all out and kind of let it play out and come to you as it will.”
What’s it like trying to get back to the Championship 4 if you don’t win a championship the prior year?
“It’s a long time from championship to championship. It’s 365 days and it feels like an eternity when you look at it in a driver’s mind but, also from traveling so much, as much as we all do, it feels like a short time. We were just in Daytona, it feels like. When you’re as good as you are and how the JGR cars were the best last year, arguably the Furniture Row car was the best car last year and he did a great job and was able to bring it all home. This year, the JGR cars are good again, but the SHR cars are probably a tick faster. It’s going to be a dogfight down to the end on whose able to bring it home and who’s able to get it at Homestead. It’s going to be an interesting battle for sure, but I’d like to think we can fight them out all the way to the end, even though they have the upper hand.”
Notes of Interest:
- The AAA Texas 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 496th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 26th NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
- Busch has career totals of 50 wins, 30 poles, 181 top-five finishes, 267 top-10s and 15,712 laps led in 495 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last month at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 31st of his career, came last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
- Busch has three wins, 12 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 864 laps in 25 career Cup Series starts at Texas. Busch’s average Texas finish is 11.6.
- Three-Peat: Busch’s consecutive wins in April at Texas, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond marked only the 25th time in NASCAR’s modern era (1972 to present) that a driver won three consecutive races. Nine of the 23 previous times a driver won three consecutive races in a season, that driver has gone on to win the championship. Before 2018, Busch was the most recent driver to win three in a row – in 2015, when he went on to score his first and, so far, only championship. Fellow championship contender Kevin Harvick accomplished the feat earlier this season prior to Busch’s hot streak. Brad Keselowski joined the group with wins at the recent events Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This marks the first time in NASCAR history that three different drivers have won three consecutive races in the same season.