Four in-a-Row Club
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 24, 2018) – What do a mix of former and current NASCAR drivers Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, David Pearson, Billy Wade, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough all have in common?
They are the only 12 drivers in the history of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with four consecutive victories.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Flavor Vote Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will look to be the 13th driver to join this exclusive list in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as he shoots for his fourth consecutive win. Busch is on a win streak that started earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, followed by wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway two weekends ago and Richmond (Va.) International Speedway last weekend.
Busch captured three consecutive wins once before during a midsummer run that helped vault him to the 2015 Cup Series championship – back-to-back-to-back wins at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and his first Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The following week at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Busch came painfully close to joining the four-in-a-row club when, while leading on the final lap, he ran out of fuel exiting turn two and all he could do was coast back to the finish line as then-JGR teammate Matt Kenseth raced by for the win.
Seven-time Cup Series champion Johnson was the most recent driver to win four in a row and is also the only driver who has scored four consecutive wins this century. Johnson’s streak came in October and November 2007 and he rode that momentum to his second Cup Series championship.
Interestingly enough, of the 12 drivers in this exclusive club, five went on to win the Cup Series championship the same year they won four races in a row. Yarborough in 1976, Waltrip in 1981, Earnhardt in 1987, Gordon in 1998 and Johnson all compiled four consecutive wins en route the season championship.
Beyond the four-in-a-row club, Petty and Allison are the only two drivers to win five or more races in a row. In 1971, Allison won five in a row and Petty won six in a row. The most prolific win streak in Cup Series history, of course, is Petty’s seemingly untouchable 10 consecutive wins in 1967, the same year he won a record 27 races in all.
While Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Flavor Vote team is capable of winning at any track, it will be a particular challenge for him this weekend at the mammoth, 2.66-mile Talladega oval, where he’s had many ups and downs. Compared to Bristol, where he has six total wins, and Richmond, where he has five, Busch has won just once in 25 career starts at Talladega. His lone win came in April 2008, and he has accumulated 12 other top-15 finishes at the track but also exited five outings early due to accidents.
Busch will bring back the same scheme he debuted during last weekend’s win at Richmond as the M&M’S brand has recently launched three, brand-new, limited-edition flavors as part of its second Flavor Vote campaign: Crunchy Espresso, Crunchy Raspberry and Crunchy Mint. The new flavors are on sale at select retailers nationwide, where fans can purchase and try each new flavor and cast a vote for their favorite once a day until May 25.
Each new M&M’S flavor is made with dark chocolate and is wrapped in the brand’s signature colorful crispy shell, offering fans a chocolatey crunch in every bite. The Crunchy Raspberry variety features a regular rice crisp center, and the Crunchy Espresso and Crunchy Mint varieties feature a cocoa rice crisp center.
So as Busch heads to Talladega this weekend, he would like nothing more than to continue his latest weekly celebration in victory lane as he shoots for not only his second top-series win there, but to join the NASCAR Cup Series exclusive four-in-a-row club.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Flavor Vote Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Have you ever had this much momentum in your career with three straight wins and seven consecutive top-three runs?
“No. I certainly would love to be doing this if this was week 10 of the playoffs – we’d be talking about something pretty cool. But I hope it’s not peaking too early. Obviously, this is way early in the season. We’ve got a long way to go. The last three weeks have been really special. Short tracks, I feel, are one of my better-suited racetracks, one of my specialties. I like to think that, anyway. I love racing anywhere, but the short tracks kind of seem to fit in my wheelhouse. I love running my Super Late Model teams. They give me a chance to run some more short tracks throughout the year, maybe gives me that little bit of an upper edge for how cars need to be at slower speeds, at bullring-type racetracks. It’s been a great year thus far. We had a rough start at Daytona. From there on out, we’ve been really strong. We’ve just got to keep it rolling. We go to another (restrictor)-plate race at Talladega. That one’s never really always in the driver’s hands. It’s kind of always in fate’s hands. We’ll just take what we can get this weekend at Talladega and see where it gets us.”
Are superspeedways more mentally draining than other racetracks?
“At Talladega, the physical demand isn’t that big of deal. You can run around there all day long and not break a sweat, really. Once you get down into the nitty gritty of the race and try to play the chess game at the end of the race, you’ve got to really pick and choose your spots and think all the time if you go here and team up with this guy. It really wears on you a little bit, mentally. I would say Talladega is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, while most other non-restrictor-plate races are 80 percent physical and 20 percent mental. We’re hoping to be in position with our M&M’S Flavor Vote Camry Sunday to give it another shot at the win.”
What is a typical plan for the entire race weekend once you get to Talladega?
“It’s different for everybody but, for us, we just kind of go out there and definitely get in the first pack in practice because the first pack is always the biggest, so you have to be ready when practice first starts. You just kind of feel out your car and see what it’s doing. Is it into the racetrack? Is it on top of the racetrack? Are you sliding around too much? If we have some things we wanted to continue to try to feel out and get better with, we sometimes run some of the second session where other guys feel like they’re good in the first one and just quit. You definitely don’t want to take a chance on wrecking your car, and you don’t want to be put in a weird spot out there and have somebody get together in front of you and you drive into it and crash a racecar. You want to get through practice by checking to see what you have but not getting it torn up, either. Your starting position doesn’t mean a whole lot so, wherever you start, you just want to make sure your racecar checks out in practice and you’re ready to race 500 miles and hope we can get our M&M’S Flavor Vote Camry to victory lane. That’s what it’s all about.”
Is it an advantage being a former winner at Talladega?
“It doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen and where the wreck is going to come from.”
What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega?
“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. You stay where the pack is, generally, and we get up single file on the wall at times until it’s time to go, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Geico 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 472nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 26th NASCAR Cup Series start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
- Busch has career totals of 46 wins, 29 poles, 168 top-five finishes, 249 top-10s and 14,879 laps led in 471 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, his third consecutive win. Busch’s most recent pole, the 29th of his career, came two weekends ago at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and seven top-10s and has led a total of 233 laps in 25 career Cup Series starts at Talladega. Busch’s average Talladega finish is 20.8.
- Only 121 short of 15,000: Busch is 121 laps shy of the 15,000-laps-led mark in NASCAR’s top series.