|Kyle Busch is 6/1 co-favorite to win Food City 500.|
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has a stellar record at the .533-mile high-banked bullring with five Cup Series wins to his credit there. In fact, there will only be one other driver in the 40-car field Sunday afternoon who has the same number of Bristol wins – his brother Kurt Busch.
After coming so close to winning races earlier this year at Phoenix International Raceway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, not only would Busch like nothing more than to bring home his first Cup Series win of the season, he’d love to sit alone atop the list of active drivers with six career Bristol wins.
In addition to his five wins, Busch has notched eight top-fives and 13 top-10s in 23 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.” Amazingly enough, three of Busch’s wins there came over a four-race span at the .533-mile short track in 2009 and 2010. While he is a factor 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 is looking to recapture the magic from his four years of dominance there on the current surface.
As Busch chases his first win of the season, a quick look at the back-to-back short-track races at Bristol and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway the following weekend give the 2015 Cup Series champion plenty of optimism that wins are on the horizon. So as Busch and the M&M’S team head to Northeast Tennessee this weekend, they’ll be focused on the number six in hopes of taking yet another checkered flag at a Bristol track that has treated him quite well over the years.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S 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 and I haven’t figured that out all the way, yet. We’ve had fast racecars the last several times there, but different things have happened that have kept us from being able to finish those races off and win another one. I definitely look forward to this weekend. We’re hoping things will fall in place this weekend with our M&M’S Camry and we get to victory lane there again. That’s always the goal each weekend.”
What is your most memorable experience at Bristol?
“The one that stands out the most for me is August 2010 – being able to do the sweep. We won the Truck race on Wednesday night, backed it up in the Xfinity Series race Friday and took home the trophy from the Cup race on Saturday night.”
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.”
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 your car here at the racetrack 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 M&M’S 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.”
- True Speed Communications