Law of Averages
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Sept. 9, 2021) – While the opener of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway did not go the way Kyle Busch envisioned, there are a couple of strong tracks on the horizon as he looks ahead to the next two races in the Round of 16.
The good news for Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is that the two remaining races in this opening round of the playoffs are two of his favorites – Richmond (Va.) Raceway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch has a combined 14 wins at those two tracks so, when he says both tracks are favorites, his success at both backs it up.
A quick look at Busch’s Cup Series statistics at Richmond shows six career victories – most among active drivers – including two in the last three races there. In addition to those six career wins, Busch’s Richmond stat sheet shows 18 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s in 31 career starts, making him the most consistent active driver at the track.
The Las Vegas native also leads all active drivers with his Richmond average finishing position of 6.8. Next best is Kevin Harvick at 8.4. Busch has completed all but one of the 12,429 laps available to him in his 31 Richmond starts. Of those, Busch has run in the top-15 for 11,079 laps, or 89.1 percent, which ranks second among active drivers.
Four of Busch’s six career Richmond wins came in consecutive spring races from 2009 to 2012, besting Richard Petty’s previous record of three Richmond spring-race wins in a row from 1971 to 1973. Busch’s other two Richmond wins came in a sweep of both races there in 2018. With his impressive statistics and records to back him up, it’s little wonder that a visit to Richmond is one of Busch’s favorite stops on the NASCAR tour.
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 will be run on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, a day which will never be forgotten all across the United States. With support from partner M&M’S, Busch will be donning his Red, White, and Blue firesuit and helmet while he and millions of Americans remember those who were lost that tragic day 20 years ago.
So, as the series heads to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia” for the second playoff race of 2021, Busch and the M&M’S team look to bring home their seventh win there. Whether or not they make it back to victory lane, history has shown Richmond could be a key race to help him climb into the top-12 when the Round of 16 is completed.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is Richmond one of your favorite tracks, and what are your expectations there this weekend?
“Richmond is a great place for us and our M&M’S team. You’ve really got to be mindful of the bottom of the racetrack and also mindful of your brakes and how you use them, just because the track is so hard on brakes, especially getting into turn one, that you can really overheat your brakes, which overheats your tires and makes you slide around more. Having good cars there has certainly been something we’ve been fortunate with at Joe Gibbs Racing over the years. I’ve won there six times and I’ve been in the top-five about every time we go there, so I would like to think that we can keep that string going and, more importantly, get a win. It would certainly be a good time for it, so we look forward to Richmond being one of those places where we can do that.”
What does it take to get around Richmond?
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are. The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Camry another win there and put last week behind us.”
How important is it to unload perfectly in this first playoff round?
“It’s really important to start the race off strong. You’re starting the race with all of the rest of your championship contenders you’re racing against, so to be able to get those points right out of the gate, it’s hard to do because you’re all starting right around each other. There’s really not a lot of opportunity at some of these places for pit stops or chances to work on your car in the first stage to get those points. Even if we did have an opportunity to start up front, we would fall out of the top-10 and not have an opportunity to get (bonus) points, not even stage wins, but to get points that matter. You get two stage wins and a win at Richmond and Bristol both, and boom, you’re right back in the mix. Being able to have success racing against the rest of your title contenders is certainly a big challenge.”
Can you compare Bristol and Richmond, both places where you’ve been successful?
“There’s really no comparison between racetracks, honestly, because Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta – they all look the same from overhead, but they all drive not even close to the same. Richmond and Bristol are more than oil and water, more than day and night. Bristol is an attack-type racetrack yet, when you attack, you can get yourself in trouble. Richmond is a very methodical racetrack and you have to be – you’re very much on edge there all the time, especially corner entry, getting into the corners. You’re always loose there and you have to be able to be loose there in order to carry the speed through the middle and have good drive off.”