HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina - He’s back. Kyle Busch is back.
It was announced earlier this week that Busch would make his much-anticipated return this weekend with the running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had been sidelined since breaking his right leg and left foot during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. After receiving clearance from both his medical team and NASCAR this week, Busch is ready to return full-time to his duties in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
And, it’s just in time.
As part of his return to racing, Busch will pilot a special paint scheme highlighting M&M’s support of Red Nose Day, a major charitable event taking place May 21 to raise money for young people living in poverty in the United States, as well as some of the poorest communities around the world. As one of the world’s most beloved chocolate candies and a leader in colorful fun, it was a natural fit for M&M’s to leverage its brand and humor to help raise money through this partnership. Fans can get involved by making someone laugh and telling everyone about it with the hashtag #MakeMLaugh. For every laugh, M&M’S will donate $1 to Red Nose Day charities to uplift children out of poverty.
M&M’s brought Red Nose Day to NASCAR for the first time at Kansas last weekend, as well as this weekend in Charlotte for the Sprint All-Star Race, an event tailor-made for having a little fun – something Busch is ready to do.
While Busch has yet to score a victory in the annual All-Star event, he’s always managed to create headlines. The Las Vegas native first left his non-points-race mark on the 2009 edition of the Sprint All-Star Race. NASCAR first instituted 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 beginning at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just three weeks later.
Now the 11-year Sprint Cup veteran is in the headlines again, but for a very different reason. Saturday night’s race not only marks his return to racing, it’s also his first race this season at a track other than a superspeedway. He finished eighth in the season-opening Sprint Unlimited, also a non-points event. This weekend’s All-Star Race marks Busch’s first intermediate track race navigating the new rules package that features less horsepower and more downforce – something that has confounded many on the tour so far this season.
But adaptation has never been a problem for Busch, who started winning at NASCAR’s elite level in his very first season in 2005. While he may need to knock off a little rust this weekend, it shouldn’t take long to tap into his wealth of experience and climb his way back to victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How does it feel to finally be getting back in the car?
“It’s exciting and I’m really happy to be getting back in the No. 18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Camry for the Sprint All-Star Race this weekend. I know everybody has been anxious to know when I would return and it would have been great back in February to say we were looking at the All-Star Race, but not a lot of people would have bet I could be back by then. I think it’s a great race to come back to, though. It’s shorter and it’s a non-points event with mandatory cautions after every 25 laps and whatnot. So it gives you an opportunity to take a breather, take a rest, whatever it may be. That will allow me to make adjustments to myself, as well as being behind the wheel of the 2015 Camry for the first time, because I haven’t had an opportunity to race at all in this aero package.”
Are there some things you’re not going to know how you feel about until you’re actually inside a racecar and in race conditions because you haven’t been able to replicate the Cup car through your Late Model tests?
“I think so because I haven’t driven in the 2015 race package, yet – the aero package and all that stuff, for one. Two, I was actually slated to have a new seat for this season. I moved from the Butler seat last season to the Hendrick seat this season. I have yet to race in the Hendrick seat. That’s something else to get used to. Since I started my driving career back when I was 13 years old, I’ve never been out of the driver’s seat for this long. There may be some things I’ve got to get accustomed to again. I think one of the things maybe is coming down pit road, getting in the pit box. But all that’s not going to be that bad. I’ve watched plenty of the races this year to see the new pit procedures and all that sort of stuff. I can understand how all that plays out. Hopefully I’m not one of the guys who makes a mistake by getting a pit road penalty for my team. As far as anything else goes, though, I think it’s all pretty typical. I’ve raced for 16, 17 years of my life. This was the first major injury I’ve ever had. Hopefully it’s just like riding a bike – you just get back on that thing and you go.”
With regard to finally getting back in the car, at what point did you know the All-Star Race was your target?
“I don’t know. I might have said a few weeks ago I’m probably ready for a return at Talladega or Kansas. But then there’s been a day or two within those two weeks where it’s like, ‘oh, man, I’m glad I didn’t decide to come back and I’m glad we waited a little bit longer.’ For me, getting into the All-Star Race, I felt like it was a good idea just based on the fact that I can get in, get behind the wheel, being able to go 200 miles an hour again, get a small taste of it – make sure everything is good, the body is good, everything is fine, which I anticipate it to be. Then, if there are things I need to work on, maybe I can work on them during the week to get myself a little bit more prepared for the 600 coming up, which is the longest one.”
What did you miss the most while you were gone?
“I think the biggest thing I missed is being able to hold up trophies, being in victory lane. That’s probably the biggest thing. I know my teammate Denny Hamlin has won and my teammate Matt Kenseth has won. Besides those races they’ve won, it may look like we’ve struggled a little bit as an organization. I’m excited to be able to get back behind the wheel of my No. 18 M&M’s Camry and being able to work with Adam Stevens. This whole year was supposed to be him and I teaming up, getting ready, getting used to each other, and now we’re 11 weeks behind schedule. And I really missed my team, just the guys there, being able to be with them each and every weekend and then, of course, spending the weekend in the motorhome, being there with Samantha and everything else.”
With your past experience, what do you enjoy most about the All-Star Race?
“I’m looking forward to it. This is always a pretty cool race and 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 and getting these two weeks – with the All-Star race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 with the longest event.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine