HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 10, 2018) – For as long as anyone can remember, the State of Kentucky and Horse Racing have been synonymous – from the state’s many horse farms to the world’s most famous horse-racing track, Churchill Downs in Louisville. Several of the 13 thoroughbreds that have won the Triple Crown came through the state’s various training grounds, including 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, 1977’s Seattle Slew, 1978’s Affirmed and, most recently 2015’s American Pharoah and this year’s Justify.
Just 65 miles up Interstate 71 from Churchill Downs sits Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, where horsepower of a different kind has been showcased over the years featuring an impressive array of auto racing “thoroughbreds.”
One of the very best competitors in the relatively short history of Kentucky Speedway happens to be Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS® Intense Flavors Toyota whose record there has proven to be not unlike the state’s most top-notch thoroughbreds. Busch is always optimistic about his chances to win at one of his best tracks statistically, and he’ll look to score a record third Kentucky win during Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at the 1.5-mile oval.
The 2015 Cup Series champion has notched multiple victories at Kentucky in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions – Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck. Add his 2003 ARCA series win at Kentucky and Busch has been victorious in four racing divisions and has made quite a Kentucky home of his own in the Bluegrass State’s second-most-famous victory lane.
Busch hopes to continue his strong record Saturday night at Kentucky, where he won two of the track’s first five races, including its inaugural Cup Series race in 2011 and, most recently, in July 2015. The heavily worn racing surface and quirky Kentucky layout Busch navigated to win both Cup Series races is gone, replaced by a newly repaved surface two seasons ago, along with a slight reconfiguration of turns one and two. Busch managed a fifth-place finish on the new surface in 2016, and he scored his sixth top-10 in seven Kentucky Cup Series races in 2017 with an eight-place finish.
In the inaugural Cup Series event at Kentucky in 2011, Busch proved his worth when he led six times for a race-high 125 laps to be the historic first winner in NASCAR’s top series in the state. He enters Saturday night’s race tied with Matt Kenseth with an average Kentucky finish of 5.1. He also leads the series in several statistical categories after the six races contested there thus far in NASCAR’s top division, during which he netted five top-five finishes.
Busch’s winning history at Kentucky started way back at the ripe age of 18, when he dominated the 2003 ARCA race while competing for Hendrick Motorsports. He led a race-high 91 laps en route to the victory.
He returned to the Bluegrass State the following year and found victory lane again, this time in his Xfinity Series debut at the 1.5-mile oval. In all, Busch has three wins, eight top-fives and has led 766 laps in seven Xfinity Series starts there. He also won the 2011 and 2014 Truck Series races to give him five top-10 finishes and 310 laps led in six Truck Series starts at the speedway. He’ll again attempt to race and win both the Cup and Xfinity Series races there this weekend.
Along for the ride this weekend in the Bluegrass State is the SNICKERS® brand with its three new bold, limited-edition intense flavors – Espresso, Fiery, and Salty & Sweet. The new flavors, available in stores nationwide, joins the popular “Hunger Bars” and feature the usual SNICKERS® ingredients – peanuts and caramel covered in milk chocolate, but with espresso, chili pepper or salt-infused flavor twist.
While Busch has notched five Cup Series wins thus far this season, as has fellow championship contender Kevin Harvick, race fans know Busch is only satisfied if he brings back home yet another trophy.
So as the Cup Series makes a swing through the Bluegrass State Saturday night, fans of Busch are hoping he can satisfy the hunger and bring home not only his third career Kentucky victory, but his sixth win this season.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Intense Flavors Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your favorite moments at Kentucky Speedway?
“I have a few favorite moments, actually. The first time racing in the ARCA Series, I won that race a long time ago. And then just a few years ago when I was able to win the race at Kentucky in 2015 during my championship season, just coming back from injury, and that was the first of three races we won in a row. We were able to pass Joey Logano that year late in the race and go on to win – that was a fun one, too. The track that year was really wide. We were running four lanes off the bottom and that never happened before. It’s great to have the three new intense flavors of SNICKERS® – Espresso, Fiery, and Salty & Sweet – on the car this weekend. We’ve had a great history with SNICKERS on board, so we’re hoping for another victory with them this weekend.”
Where do you have the Jukebox trophies from winning Cup Series and Xfinity Series races at Kentucky?
“One of our jukeboxes is downstairs in the play area, where we have the downstairs bar and pool table area. And the other one is in (son) Brexton’s playroom. He knows how to turn it on, goes up there and it’s playing whatever music is on. Brexton loves the jukebox, for sure.”
How big of a challenge do you have with turn one and two versus a completely different turns three and four at Kentucky?
“I think the biggest thing we saw the last couple of years is that the groove goes from being so wide coming out of turn four and down the front straightaway, it kind of narrows up getting into turn one and the racetrack width narrows up, not to mention the groove is probably only one car wide. Then, on the other end getting into turn three, the track kind of widens out down there and you have plenty of room, but again it narrows down and there’s only one groove. Last year, it seemed, in turns one and two, the rubber laid down well but it was more of a challenge in turns three and four. We’ll see how it is this weekend.”
How does it feel to know you’ll always be the inaugural Cup Series winner at Kentucky for the rest of your career?
“I think it’s cool. You look at some of the new venues we’ve been to over the years and Jeff Gordon got to win a number of inaugural races, like the Brickyard, Fontana, and Kansas. He was always the guy who was known to figure out places the fastest, but we were able to be the ones to do that at Kentucky. There aren’t many opportunities these days to go to a new venue so, for us, being able to win the first race there was extra special, and we’ve really kept that going there by finishing in the top-10 six of the seven races there. We’d certainly like to keep our record going there this weekend with our SNICKERS Intense Flavors Camry.”
Is Kentucky a special place for you?
“I love Kentucky. It was special there in 2011, when we were able to win the first Cup race there, and it stayed that way during our win there two years ago. I look forward to going back every year. It’s a pretty challenging racetrack. It used to be a place that lends itself to different kinds of setups because it was so rough. Fast lap times at Kentucky come from momentum. The place is so round that there’s not a ton of banking compared to some other 1.5-milers. It’s all about how round the corners are and just being able to maintain corner speed and stay on the gas. It’s a place we get excited about, for sure.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Quaker State 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 481st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his eighth NASCAR Cup Series start at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
- Busch has two wins, five top-five finishes and six top-10s and has led a total of 549 laps in seven career Cup Series starts at Kentucky. Busch’s average Kentucky finish is 5.1, a series high at the 1.5-mile oval.
- Kentucky Thoroughbred: In addition to winning the inaugural Cup Series race at Kentucky in 2011 and again in 2015, Busch has three wins (2004, 2016, and 2017) eight top-fives, and has led a total of 766 laps in 10 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky. In the Camping World Truck Series at Kentucky, Busch has two wins (2011 and 2014), three top-five and six top-10 finishes in seven starts there.
- Loopy for Kentucky: With two wins in the first seven Cup Series races run at Kentucky, Busch has strong statistics overall and is best in the series in eight categories since the series began visiting the 1.5-mile oval in 2011:
● Laps Led: 549, or 29.4 percent, in seven starts.
● Average Running Position: 4.607.
● Average Finish: 5.1.
● Driver Rating: 125.9.
● Fastest on Restarts: 168.282 mph.
● Fastest Laps Run: 268.
● Average Green-Flag Speed: 173.852 mph.
● Laps in the Top-15: 1,796, or 96.1 percent.