|Kyle Busch is the 5/1 favorites to win All-Star Race.|
Busch’s record in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series isn’t too shabby, either, with 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s to his name. However, until his All-Star win last year, Busch had not gone to victory lane at Charlotte in NASCAR’s top series, and he’ll still be seeking his first points-paying victory there when the series comes back May 27 for the traditional Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600. Busch’s M&M’S Red Nose Day scheme for Saturday night’s All-Star Race will come in an event that always seems to be tailor-made for the aggressive driving style of the 2015 Cup Series champion.
Busch first left his non-points-race mark on the 2009 edition of the All-Star Race. NASCAR introduced short-track-style, double-file restarts for just the All-Star Race that year. After Busch pulled off several bold moves that helped inject plenty of excitement into the race, it prompted NASCAR to go ahead and institute the double-file restart rule permanently for its top three series shortly after the 2009 All-Star race. Busch locked in his spot for Saturday night’s main event – comprised primarily of 2017 and 2018 Cup Series race winners, plus past AllStar Race winners and past series champions – via his five series wins in 2017 and three thus far in 2018.
The Las Vegas native not only has earned the title of All-Star, he’s one of the dominant forces in NASCAR’s top series, totaling 187 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions and is tied for 15th on the all-time Cup Series win list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker. For the first time in Cup Series competition on a 1.5-mile oval, the cars this weekend will use a horsepower-reducing restrictor plate, a splitter borrowed from the 2014 rules package with a 2018 radiator pan, a 6-inch-tall spoiler with two “ear” extensions measuring 12 inches tall, and manufacturer-specific air ducts designed to minimize the advantage of lead cars in undisturbed air.
There will no doubt be a lot of unknowns with NASCAR never using this type of package for its Cup Series cars on a track other than Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway or Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Busch’s special M&M’S Red Nose Day scheme to defend his 2017 All-Star win marks the fourth year in a row that M&M’S has partnered with Red Nose Day to help children in need. M&M’S is donating more than $1 million to the Red Nose Day Fund to ensure children in need are safe, healthy and educated both in the United States and around the world.
Fans can join the Red Nose Day fun by picking up a Red Nose at local Walgreens stores, and share a picture on social media channels using the hashtag #NosesOn. Busch views Saturday’s non-points All-Star Race as his annual opportunity to throw patience out the window at his own discretion. With an All-Star victory already under his belt, he hopes the M&M’S Red Nose Day colors will bring the No. 18 team good luck again as it looks to add another All-Star win to its growing list of accomplishments.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your expectations for the All-Star Race?
“This is always a pretty cool race and it has good atmosphere around it. The crowd gets jacked up and, of course, there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can. You get some practice runs in, get some good practice in and make sure your car feels good to you. And you try to work on your speed, of course, as best you can. Qualifying – that’s certainly going to be interesting again this year. I think, all in all, it’s a fun event. We always enjoy coming to Charlotte for these two weekends – with the All-Star Race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 with the longest event. It’s kind of two different ends of the spectrum at Charlotte and we’re hoping to get a win in the Cup car with our M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota at least once over the next two weekends there.”
What do you think about the new rules package for the All-Star Race?
“I’m not a particular fan of it, but we do need to orchestrate some better racing at mile-and-a-half tracks, particularly Charlotte for some reason. It hasn’t been one of our best racetracks there since the repave as far as working multiple lanes. It’s been pretty single-file there and I don’t know why. You would think with age on asphalt it would keep getting better and better and it hasn’t. We need to bring out more things to try and I’m not a particular fan of slowing the lead car down and bringing that guy back to the rest of the field. But if that gets us back to closer racing, then so be it. As far as us having to do that every single week and continuing on to next year, I have to give it a chance first at Charlotte to see what it’s like before I completely throw it out.”
What driving style does it take to succeed in the All-Star Race?
“I think just being aggressive and knowing when to be aggressive and how to be aggressive is the biggest thing. It’s a race where you have to get to the front and you have to get out there and get yourself, more importantly, in clean air in order to keep yourself out front and on your own.”
What does it mean to be a part of the All-Star Race in this sport?
“It matters, especially with who your fellow competitors are. For us, being an all-star and being in the All-Star Race is one of the most fun things we get to do each year. I’d say the Clash is another one of those and, with the All-Star Race, they are certainly two fun races where we get a chance to go after just a win and bring home the checkers or end up on the wrecker. It’s an exciting night and there’s a lot of energy there. It gives you the opportunity to run that many qualifying laps in a row. That’s all you’re doing – you’re giving it all you’ve got every single lap. You’re definitely up on top of the wheel and your guys do the best they can to give you a good car and to make it as lightweight as possible and throw away the air conditioning unit and keep all the front fans away from you – no radiator fan. All that stuff, just try to lighten that baby up and make it fast.”
What drivers do you think are best suited for the All-Star Race?
“You look at the guys who are really good, who qualify well. I think qualifying well can always lend itself to racing the All-Star Race well because you’re running however many laps that segment is, you’re running that many qualifying laps in a row. You’re just trying to get the most you can out of your car there. It’s sometimes hard to pass because the guy in front of you is trying to get the most out of his car and so are you, so you just can’t get there.”