One Sweet Costume at Kansas
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 16, 2019) – It’s October and, as usual this time of year, M&M’S has brought back its Halloween-themed No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for driver Kyle Busch during the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – this weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and the following weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – during one of M&M’S busiest seasons.
Busch and his two-race M&M’S themed Halloween costume head to this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas hoping to lock in his spot to the Round of 8 of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. And for his part, Kansas hasn’t been nearly as spooky over the course of the last 10 races, as opposed to a vastly stark record over the course of his first 13 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, where he had eight finishes of 20th or worse.
With those finishes earlier in this career at Kansas in mind, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team can look to the turning point being in April 2014 race there where they started from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked the track in the Heartland of America with hope that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result of 15th was still much different than the three previous trips. They began to turn the corner in terms of competitiveness and results.
Starting with the October 2014 Kansas Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at the track. Anyone who has ever followed Busch’s career knows the 2015 Cup Series champion never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum carried over from the October 2014 top-five to his next Kansas race in October 2015, when he finished a solid third. It was a finish that helped vault him through to the next round of the Cup Series playoffs and eventually to the championship stage.
Busch has kept making strides each time he goes back to Kansas. He broke through for his first Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile oval in May 2016 as the surface finally started to wear and become more agreeable to Busch’s driving style. He now has eight top-10 finishes over the course of his last 10 starts there, a streak that at one point included five consecutive top-five finishes.
Sunday afternoon in Kansas, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team will look to tackle the final race of the Round of 12 of the 2019 playoffs. Busch has a 41-point advantage over the all-important cutoff spot for the Round of 8, a gap he hopes to keep in order to make it through to the next round. The Las Vegas native hopes for two strong finishes in the first two stages, along with a solid result in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 to make his advancement to the next round.
So, as the Cup Series heads to the Heartland of America Sunday, another solid finish at Kansas could be just what Busch needs to move on to the next playoff round. With Halloween fast approaching, Busch and his colorful M&M’S Halloween Toyota hope to take their costume to victory lane at Kansas.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Are you looking forward to racing at Kansas more now that you’ve won there?
“I am. Also, it was – even the last few times before we won there a few years ago, we’ve had some really strong runs there. We finished in the top-10 a lot there over the last 10 races or so. We seem to have gotten a setup or a hold of this place I’d say and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around and we can continue our strong runs and our fast pace of being able to have a shot to win. Looking forward to getting back in our M&M’S Halloween scheme and get them a win in a car that always look great every year.”
Do you expect to see more aggression in the Playoffs as it gets closer to the end of the season?
“Yeah, I guess I would imagine some of that, sure. Everybody goes for broke and tries to move people out of the way and get what they can get on restarts. It’s always kind of chaotic in that regard. It is because as soon as the restarts are done and you kind of get three, four, five, six laps gone after a restart then that’s kind of where you ride. It’s really tough to pass for the next 40 until cars start to fall off and tires start to wear out a little bit. It’s certainly a different game then what it’s been in years past. In years past, you could kind of take it easy on restarts a little bit and let everything kind of formulate and single-file out some and then you could pick your way up through there.”
Talk about this weekend at Kansas Speedway and your expectations on the track.
“Kansas has been a good place to come for our sport. You know the crowd, the reception, the racetrack, the community has really built up around the racetrack there over the last 10 years, or so. It’s been a lot of fun to see all that happen and I’m looking forward to the race. It’s been a great racetrack for us, lately. We’ve had some good runs there once the track aged. We’ve kind of seemed to maybe have figured out the place a little bit better. And, you know, we’re looking forward to the opportunity of being able to go out there and hopefully get ourselves with our M&M’s Halloween Camry in victory lane."
How much does the racetrack at Kansas change from the night race in the spring to the day race in the fall?
“For me, it behaved a lot the last couple of years, but we’ll see with what this package brings as far as changes from the night race this year. The night race, it just seemed like you had grip the entire run. You could really abuse the car and abuse the tires and everything just kind of stayed with you. But then, in the fall race when it was sunny and warmer out, you really had to take care of your tires and kind of keep the heat out of them so you weren’t sliding around as much and then falling back on the longer run.”
Kansas had been a frustrating place for you during your career, but have you and your team turned the corner there?
“I think so. We ran third there in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t there in the spring race of 2015 since that was the last race I was recovering from my injury, but (Erik) Jones ran up front until he ended up wrecking. The last several races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Adam and the guys have been bringing really good racecars to the track every weekend and, when you have great cars and run up front, good things are going to happen.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Hollywood Casino 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 530th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 24th NASCAR Cup Series start at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
- Busch has career totals of 55 wins, 31 poles, 197 top-five finishes, 292 top-10s and 17,225 laps led in 529 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in June at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came last October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
- Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s and has led a total of 328 laps in 23 Cup Series starts at Kansas. Busch’s average Kansas finish is 16.9.