Start of a Summer Hot Streak?
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Aug. 1, 2017) – As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season heads into the heat of the summer in August, don’t look now, but Kyle Busch might just be getting ready to go on another summer hot streak.
Busch, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) brought home his first points race victory last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, which also happened to be his first win in NASCAR’s top series at the 2.5-mile triangle. The win was a long time coming, as Busch had come so very close to victory lane several times thus far this season. In fact, Busch’s 1,114 laps led this season is the second-most in the series behind Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. who has led 1,291. As competitive as the M&M’S Caramel team has been in 2017, it was only a matter of time before they made a trip back to victory lane.
With a new trophy on the mantle, Busch now heads to Upstate New York for the second and final road-course race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. Busch will no doubt have an opportunity to start a late summer hot streak this weekend when the series visits Watkins Glen (N.Y) International. With his win at Pocono, the 39th of his Cup Series career, Busch is virtually a lock for NASCAR’s playoffs, as he now looks to add as many bonus points as possible for stage wins and race wins to use throughout the 10-race playoff push.
If the Las Vegas native were to grab another checkered flag in Sunday’s I Love New York 355k at The Glen and make it two wins in-a-row in 2017, he could also join some elite company as a road-racing ace in NASCAR’s top series.
Busch is tied with David Pearson and Mark Martin with four Cup Series road-course wins apiece. That’s some pretty good company, already. But with a fifth road-course win, he could tie Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond and Dan Gurney on the road-course win list. There is a bit of distance to the top two spots on the all-time road-course wins list, however, as second-place Jeff Gordon has seven wins and leader Tony Stewart has nine.
Busch scored his fourth career Cup Series road-course win in June 2015 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, and he heads to Watkins Glen with an impressive nine top-10 finishes in his 12 career starts at The Glen, which includes two victories. Add an average finish of 10.1, along with his 195 laps led, and Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s 355-kilometer race.
After Busch’s inaugural Cup Series victory at The Glen in 2008, he nearly won for the second time on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course in his 2011 and 2012 visits there before breaking through again in 2013 with another victory in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region. A third victory Sunday at The Glen would continue to solidify Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team as the favorite each time the series comes to town.
So as Busch heads to Upstate New York for some road racing this weekend, he would like to accomplish two things – add to his summer hot streak while also adding to the record books as one of NASCAR’s best road-course racers.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You’ve had some success at Watkins Glen. What makes Watkins Glen challenging, and why is it so much different than racing at Sonoma?
“I like going to Watkins Glen. It’s a road course, but it’s kind of a high-speed road course. The difference in the two road courses, you think of Sonoma as like a Martinsville-type road course and you would think of Watkins Glen like a 2-mile oval, like a California- or Michigan-type road course. Watkins Glen has some speed and has some wide-open spaces a little bit, but there is still a lot great racing that happens there since you are able to out-brake people getting into the corners, or having a better run through the bus stop, or maybe getting by someone in the carousel. It’s a fun place to race. I really like Watkins Glen and I hope that we can have another solid run there with our M&M’S Caramel Camry.”
Would you like to see more road-course races on the Cup Series Schedule?
“I wouldn’t mind more road-course races in the schedule. I think you have four restrictor-plate races, and you’ve got one speedway race in the playoffs, so why not make it four road-course races in the season and perhaps one road course race in the playoffs. That seems pretty even to me. At the same time, it’s easier said than done if you are NASCAR because you don’t know where you would be able to take away some races to add more road courses, but also add a track that has good enough weather later in the year to run there.”
What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses is pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging, yet a lot of fun. As you come down the front straightaway, it’s a downhill braking zone, so you feel like you don’t have to brake as soon as you need to, but you need to in order to get slowed down for turn one. You try to stay out and get a good, hard cut to the right for turn one and accelerate out of there as quickly as you can to get set up for the esses. (You) stay wide on the left and then turn into the right-hander in (turn) two – smooth. You’re getting out of the gas but not using too much brake, just rolling off in there. As the car gets in there and loads, it actually takes a really big set because that’s when you start going back uphill. So the car will load up and that’s when you get back in the gas really wide open. And then you have to turn back to the left and be able to roll back out of it just enough to make the car bend. And then you’re back wide open again to the right-side guardrail and just keeping it tight through the right-hander that we call turn five.”
What is the most challenging part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“I’d say the most challenging thing is the culmination of the inner loop and the carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess.”
What does it take to be successful at Watkins Glen?
“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops I’m unsure of because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year. At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack.”
Notes of Interest:
- The I Love NY 355k at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International will mark Kyle Busch’s 448th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 13th NASCAR Cup Series start at Watkins Glen.
- Busch has career totals of 39 wins, 24 poles, 155 top-five finishes, 230 top-10s and 13,470 laps led in 447 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) raceway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 24th of his career, also came last weekend at Pocono and he now has five total for the season.
- Busch has two wins, five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s and has led a total of 195 laps in 12 career Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen. Busch’s average Watkins Glen finish is 10.1.
- 13,000: After leading 100 laps at Pocono in June, Busch bested the 13,000 mark in laps led in NASCAR’s top series. With his current 13,470 Cup Series laps led, Busch is just the 11th driver to best the 13,000 mark.
- 100th: Busch brought home Toyota’s maiden Cup series victory in March of 2008. Fast forward nine years later and Busch’s Pocono win was the 100th for the Toyota Camry brand in NASCAR’s top series. Busch has brought home 35 of those 100 victories for the manufacturer. The win was also Toyota’s 400th victory among NASCAR’s top three series. Among those 400 wins, Busch has 155 of those wins.
- Starting Up Front: Enroute to his win at Pocono last weekend, Busch captured the pole position earlier in the day, which was the fifth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Five poles is the most poles Busch has captured during any season of his career. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
- All-Star Winner: In addition to last weekend’s win at Pocono, Busch brought home a non-points victory in May’s All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, as the M&M’S Caramel brand is now two for three in races so far this year. The win was Busch’s first victory in his 12th start in the All-Star Race, the largest number of starts before an All-Star Race win. The previous high was held by Tony Stewart with 11 All-Star starts before his win in 2009.
- 39 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Pocono, the 39th points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits tied for 18th on the all-time Cup Series win list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Tim Flock.
- One Left: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, and now Pocono crossed off the list in 2017, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte. Busch, of course, was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Five of Busch’s last seven Cup Series wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville, Kansas, and Pocono). Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
- All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win last July, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 35 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following the Pocono win.
- 176 and Counting: Busch enters Watkins Glen with 175 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (39), Xfinity (89) and Truck (48) following his Cup Series win last weekend at Pocono.