Start of a Streak?
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 10, 2018) – With four top-five finishes and five top-10s in the first six races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Busch led the points heading into last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth – no doubt a very strong start to the season.
But for Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), three runner-up finishes and a third-place finish in the races just prior to Texas proved highly frustrating as he had come so agonizingly close to his first win of the year four weekends in a row.
However, as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Food City 500, Busch will be returning to the .533-mile high-banked oval as the most recent winner in NASCAR’s top series as he finally broke through last weekend at Texas with his third career win there.
This weekend, Busch and his team head to Bristol, another place where he has multiple wins, looking to start a win streak. And they have every reason to feel confident since the Bristol bullring and next weekend’s race stop at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway are among his strongest tracks on the circuit.
Last August, Busch not only brought home his sixth series win at Bristol, breaking a tie with brother Kurt Busch for the most wins there among active drivers, he also swept all three races (Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck) for the second time in his career.
In addition to his six career Cup Series wins, Busch has notched nine top-fives and 14 top-10s in 25 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.” Three of Busch’s Cup wins there came over a four-race span in 2009 and 2010.
While he is one of the favorites to win any time he travels to Bristol, it’s interesting to note Busch didn’t immediately take to the place. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd. But his record since then has been impressive, to say the least. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol Cup Series win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that race and, from 2008 to 2011, nobody has been better at the concrete short track than Busch. He scored four wins and six top-10s from 2008 until another change to the track surface prior to the August 2012 race weekend. Busch seems to have recaptured the magic from his four years of dominance there into a new era of strong runs there.
So as Busch and the Skittles team head to the Bristol Bullring this weekend, they’ll hope last weekend’s Texas win is just the start of something big. Another checkered flag at a Bristol track that has treated him quite well over the years is certainly possible.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How much do you look forward to Bristol each year?
“I certainly look forward to Bristol and I definitely have over the years, whether it was the old surface or when they repaved it. It’s been kind of frustrating a little bit for me on the Cup side since the (track surface) grind, but I think we are starting to get the hang of it now. We’ve had fast racecars there for a stretch, but different things have happened that have kept us from being able to finish those races off. And then we finally got back on track last August. I definitely look forward to this weekend. We’re hoping things will fall in place this weekend with our Skittles Camry and we get to victory lane there again. That’s always the goal each weekend.”
What is the most challenging aspect of Bristol?
“I think the most challenging aspect of Bristol is just how difficult it is to transition through from the straightaways to the corners, back to the straightaways, and have your car set up in order to do all that. Sometimes you can be really loose getting in, or you can be really tight in the middle – you just seem to never be able to get a good-flowing car that works well there. Drivers have to do a lot of manipulation on the racetrack with their car in order to try to make the best of it.”
With your win at Texas last weekend, you tied Bill Elliott in career Cup Series wins. What does that mean to you?
“It’s cool. Certainly any time you keep winning races and kind of keep moving up the ladder, it’s really special. For myself, and for as much as I love to win and hate to lose, it obviously feels a heck of a lot better when you can be talking about a win rather than a second or third, something like that, like we have been the past six weeks. That’s hopefully going to continue to grow and continue to get farther up. We’ll see how far we can get.”
Do you think anyone will ever win another seven races in a row at Bristol, like Darrell Waltrip did from 1981 to 1984?
“No, I don’t think so. I think the way the sport was then is certainly different than the way the sport is now. When you hit on something back in that day, you might have been able to keep it at that particular racetrack for a lot longer than you can now. The way that tech goes and the way you have to tear down and having people looking at it from not very far away, they can see what you’re doing and, then again, they go to the tech center and they pull apart the shocks and they pull apart the bump stops and they basically give away to everybody else what you’re doing. I don’t think you’ll ever see seven in a row at a particular racetrack again, but I could be wrong. Deep down, I would like to say that I could do it, but I know that, even with the team I have and the crew and the talent and everything we’ve got going on with the Skittles car, that’s going to be hard to do. It’s fun to reminisce about those days and about what it’s all about but, sometimes you hear these comments about our sport. And they talk about how great it was in the ’70s or the ’80s, and you look at some of the results and there’s eight cars that finish and the second-place car is three laps down and this guy has now won five in a row at a particular racetrack and it’s, like, ‘How is that the good old days?’ Is that really what would be exciting these days? I don’t think so. Not unless it’s your favorite driver, and there are a lot of fans out there who pull for different drivers.”
How have you figured out the best way to get around Bristol Motor Speedway?
“Things have just kind of really worked well together. It’s a fun place that you like going to. You enjoy the race around there. We grew up at the ‘Bullring’ (in Las Vegas) and stuff like that. They aren’t as banked as Bristol is, but I love going and racing at Winchester (Indiana) and at Slinger (Wisconsin), Salem (Indiana) – those are all really high-banked racetracks that are a half-mile in distance, or a quarter. They’re really fun to race around and you kind of get a great feel for racing in a bowl. You go down the straightaway and you slam it into the corners and you mash the gas and you kind of sling right back out of the corners. It’s a lot of fun to do that. It’s kind of an art. Some guys are really good at it, and some find a knack that makes them really good at it and makes it seem easy.”
What makes Bristol Motor Speedway so unique and a place that fans love?
“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best racetracks on the circuit. All the fans love it because of the excitement, the run-ins and the close-quarter action with all the cars being packed on top of one another at a half-mile racetrack with us 40 lunatics running around in a tight circle. With the fans, the atmosphere there always makes for a good time.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Food City 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 470th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 26th NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- Busch has career totals of 44 wins, 28 poles, 166 top-five finishes, 247 top-10s and 14,730 laps led in 469 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Busch’s most recent pole, the 28th of his career, came Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- Busch has six wins, nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and has led a total of 2,116 laps in 25 career Cup Series starts at Bristol. Busch’s average Bristol finish is14.6.
- Only 270 short of 15,000: Busch is 270 laps shy of the 15,000-laps-led mark in NASCAR’s top series.
- Clean Sweep Times Two: For the second time in his career, Busch swept a weekend in all three of NASCAR’s national series with victories in Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck last August at Bristol. The first time Busch completed the feat also happened to be at Bristol back in 2010, and the 2015 Cup Series champion is the only driver to do so –now twice – in NASCAR history.