Tasting Victory

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 2, 2019) – With 53 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins and 203 overall wins amongst NASCAR’s top three series, Kyle Busch knows a thing or two about tasting victory whenever he straps into a racecar. 

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is the only driver to score top-10 finishes in all seven Cup Series races contested so far this season, a distinction he’s held since the fourth race of the season when he brought the Skittles colors to victory lane at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. Even more, Busch was close to at least three more victories during these first two months of the season.

With another win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California the weekend after Phoenix, and five top-five finishes among his seven top-10s – no doubt a very strong start to the season – Busch sits atop the point standings heading into this weekend’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the .533-mile, high-banked, concrete oval for Sunday’s Food City 500, Busch returns as the defending winner of the spring race at a venue where he now has seven career Cup Series victories – the most wins of any active driver.

This weekend, Busch and his team travel to Bristol looking to continue their consistency while also aiming to start another win streak after their back-to-back wins at Phoenix and Fontana were followed by a third-place run at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and last weekend’s 10th-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The Skittles team has every reason to feel confident since the Bristol bullring and next weekend’s stop at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway are among Busch’s strongest tracks on the circuit. In addition to his seven career Cup Series wins at Bristol, Busch has notched 10 top-fives and 15 top-10s in 27 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.” Three of Busch’s Cup Series 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 Bristol 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.

So as Busch and the Skittles team head to the Bristol bullring this weekend, they’ll hope the strong start to the season is just the start of something even bigger. Another checkered flag at a Bristol track that has treated him quite well over the years is certainly not out of the question. With the Skittles tagline of “Taste the Rainbow” in mind, Busch will certainly not tire of tasting victory every chance he gets.

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. We had good runs there last year, but this weekend is a bit of an unknown with the changes in the package. We’ve had fast racecars there for a stretch, but different things have happened that have kept us from being able to finish off those races. And then we finally got back on in 2017 and had another win last spring. 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.”

Are you happy with the current race package?

“If you had to ask me do I like the package, sure I might as well say that I do, but then they’re going to make a change to it. I don’t know if I like it or not (laughs). We’re all racecar drivers. We’re all going to say we want to go as fast as we possibly can. We’re all going to admit that we want to go out there and lead every lap. Lap the field and win the race. Take home the checkered flag and go on to next week. There are people in the grandstands and who watch on television that want to see a show, as well, and you’re not always – look there’s been how many races in NASCAR? – you’re not always going to have the magical moment every single week. If you have five of them every year, I think you’re on par. People sometimes just have to be patient and watch and see what happens. Be excited. That’s how I am. Excited.”

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 are 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 506th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 28th NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
  • Busch has career totals of 53 wins, 31 poles, 188 top-five finishes, 276 top-10s and 16,277 laps led in 505 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came three races ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, his second consecutive Cup Series victory. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
  • Busch has seven wins, 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s and has led a total of 2,233 laps in 27 career Cup Series starts at Bristol. Busch’s average Bristol finish is 14.3.