Looking for Luck in the Irish Hills of Michigan

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (June 5, 2018) – During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan – located near U.S. 12 just about halfway between Detroit and Chicago – was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.

At the turn of the century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet. 

For the last several decades, the Irish Hills become anything but peaceful and quiet two weekends per year when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

During this weekend’s semiannual stopover at the track located approximately 80 miles southwest of Detroit, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to keep his hot start to the season going while also breaking out of some tough luck at Michigan in recent years during Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.

Busch won at Michigan in August 2011 for his first Cup Series triumph there. However, the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season and, while he scored a solid fourth-place finish on the new surface in June 2013, he has just two top-10 finishes since the repave, both coming last year, which is not up to Busch’s high standards. This weekend, Busch looks to overcome that recent string of bad luck at Michigan and turn his fortunes around on the blazing-fast oval. 

While Busch has had some tough luck at Michigan in recent years, he’s had no such thing during the 14 races contested in NASCAR’s top series thus far in 2018. He has four victories thus far among his impressive nine top-five finishes, and 11-top-10s, and he’s led 888 laps just past the halfway point in the Cup Series regular season. 

Busch will bring the M&M’S Red, White and Blue paint scheme back for a third weekend in a row after running the colors at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend and at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last weekend. The patriotic scheme celebrates M&M’S Red, White and Blue Mix, which is available at retailers nationwide and is the perfect treat to celebrate summer.

So, as Busch and the M&M’s Red, White and Blue team head to the Upper Midwest this weekend, they hope to turn their luck around with the ultimate goal of a second career Cup Series victory for Busch in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Red, White, and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

Does taking the same approach you have to Kansas and other repaved tracks also benefit you at a place like Michigan?

“Our M&M’S guys have come a long way at Kansas, that’s for sure. To get a win there a few years ago was a really big deal for our team. I give my guys a lot of credit for working hard to find something I was more comfortable with there. Our whole team has shown how well we’ve worked together, and that he (crew chief Adam Stevens) has been a really quick study, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for me at Michigan this weekend. I’m hoping Michigan will be at least a little bit more worn in than when we were there last fall. I’m looking forward to getting out there in practice and seeing what we can learn with our M&M’S Red, White and Blue Camry.”

What is it about Adam Stevens that you’re able to work so well with him and how you’ve developed such good chemistry?

“When Adam and I were slated to work together on the Xfinity side, I was really excited to work with him. I knew that him and (Joey) Logano kind of had this bit of chemistry that really worked well for them, and I wasn’t sure that I would fit into the mold. He’s got a definite fire and drive to him, as well, and a passion like mine. It’s just the amount of dedication and the amount of drive that he and I both share, I think, is what makes us so strong. A lot of different guys have a lot of different ways to go about their business. I think Rodney Childers (Kevin Harvick’s crew chief) is very unique in the way he goes about his business. It’s very chill and yet they get the job done very well. Adam and myself, we tend to look pretty good sometimes at being able to do our job well, and I’ll be mad one day and he’ll be talking to me about why I’m mad, and then he’ll be mad another day and I’ll be asking him about why he’s mad. We kind of fit within each other a little bit and definitely feed off each other and push each other to continue to be stronger and be better.”

Most driver seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?

“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing, and you can run from top to bottom more and more every race there as the groove widens out. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But, with the new surface, there is a ton of grip, now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now, the tire wear is all out the window and the racetrack is very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it.”

Do you expect the track surface to be worn in a little bit more this year?

“I expect it to be fast, still. There’s still a lot of grip, but I’m hoping it’s starting to get worn in like Kansas did. I would still expect it to be very fast this weekend still like it has been. But if you’re just a little bit loose there, now you’renervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck. It was really intense last year in our tests and in the races there. You are hauling there now, for sure, and we know that corner speeds are up overall this year at other places.”

With Father’s Day coming up next weekend, how instrumental was your father in your racing career, and who else helped you along the way to get you to where you are today? 

“Obviously, my father – he’s probably number one. He and my mom just taking all of their resources and money and everything to help Kurt (Busch, brother) and I get farther along in our careers in Las Vegas through Dwarf cars, Legends cars, Modifieds, whatever it was. Modifieds was about as far as we could go as a family – that was all we could afford. Then, past that was Jerry Spilsbury – he used to own an air conditioning company back in Las Vegas and he had a Late Model team out at the speedway the year before I ran. It was a one-car team and then, the year I ran, we actually became a three-car team. So it was Jerry himself, and then another guy named Billy Newman, and then myself who raced those cars that year. I think I finished third in the championship. I missed the first two races of the year because I wasn’t 16, yet. My birthday wasn’t until May. And then I had to miss another race when I ran out of gas in Chicago in the Camping World Truck Series race that day and we tried to fly back, but we couldn’t get out because of the weather in Chicago, so we couldn’t make that race that night. So I missed three and still finished third in points. I think Billy was second. We had a good year that year, but Jerry spent a lot of money, employed my father and just allowed me to succeed in winning 10 of 15 Late Model races that year – we finished second in three, third once and broke a rear-end gear in the other one while leading. We were plenty fast and, through racing that car that year, I think a lot of people took notice that Kurt Busch’s little brother back in Vegas was pretty good, and that’s all history, now.”

Notes of Interest:

  • The FireKeepers Casino 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 477th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 27th NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
  • Busch has career totals of 47 wins, 30 poles, 170 top-five finishes, 252 top-10s and 15,269 laps led in 476 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came two races ago at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, also came that weekend at Charlotte.
  • Busch has one win, four top-five finishes and eight top-10s and has led a total of 233 laps in 26 career Cup Series starts at Michigan. Busch’s average Michigan finish is 19.5.