HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Kyle Busch’s 32 victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have come at 17 of the 23 racetracks where it competes. Those 32 wins on layouts of virtually every shape and size are certainly proof of the Las Vegas native’s versatility and fierce appetite for checkered flags.
Always looking for more, the driver of the No. 18 Skittles® Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is determined to add a place not currently on his Sprint Cup win list – Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the site of Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
There are certainly reasons for optimism this year for Busch as he and the Skittles team are riding quite the hot streak. Busch has captured wins in three of the last four Sprint Cup events. The wins have come at three completely different styles of tracks, starting with the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway June 28, then at the 1.5-mile, moderately banked Kentucky Speedway tri-oval in Sparta July 12, and finally last Sunday at the 1.058-mile, relatively flat oval New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
With the three wins, Busch and the Skittles team have been making huge progress on their march to make the top-30 in Sprint Cup driver standings, which would ensure them a berth in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. With seven races before the 16-driver Chase grid is locked in, Busch now sits just 58 points behind 30th-place David Gilliland. Busch has shaved an astounding 115 points off the deficit during the past four races, the only non-win being a 17th-place result at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. After finishing second at Indianapolis two of the last three years, along with seven top-10 finishes in 10 total starts at the historic 2.5-mile, four-cornered oval, Busch and team have plenty of confidence they’ll continue to close the gap on the all-important 30th spot in the driver standings.
Sunday’s race at Indianapolis also marks the return of the popular, red Skittles paint scheme for the No. 18 Toyota. Along with Busch’s hopes of kissing the famed Yard of Bricks following Sunday’s race – a tradition for the winning driver and his team at the century-old speedway – fans will also be able to “Taste the Rainbow” one more time this season as the Skittles car will be on track at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway next month. Busch, who counts Green Apple Skittles among his personal favorite, has already competed in the red Skittles scheme at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway this past spring.
So, earning the right to kiss Indy’s famed “Yard of Bricks” come Sunday afternoon would shoot straight to the top of Busch’s ever-growing list of accomplishments as he hopes to “Taste the Bricks” with a little help from the “Rainbow.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What makes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so special for you as a driver?
“I think the biggest thing about the Brickyard is the prestige, the track’s history and quality of racing – all the historic finishes it’s had over the years, whether it has been IndyCar or NASCAR. To me, it’s a special place to go to because of its heritage of being Indianapolis. Every guy in NASCAR and, especially every guy in IndyCar, they want to win there. Getting our Skittles Camry to victory lane there would be special for a lot of reasons.”
What’s your favorite Brickyard 400 moment from either watching or participating over the years?
“I think my favorite moment from over the years there was probably the first one. I just remember Jeff Gordon being my favorite driver. It was his second full-time season in 1994 and he went to victory lane there in the inaugural race. I think that was pretty cool and pretty special for someone who grew up being a fan of Jeff Gordon.”
What does it mean to you to race at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is a really cool place. It’s got a lot of history. I know the history is not all NASCAR – most of it is IndyCar – but it’s one of America’s oldest speedways. The prestige of winning there is a big deal. It’s a unique place to race. If you are back in traffic, it’s a little more frustrating because it can be hard to pass there. But, if you have a fast racecar, being able to cut the middle and get down the long, fast straightaways is important there. We’ve run well there the past couple of times. We haven’t qualified well, though, and I think we need to focus on qualifying when we get there and, if we can do that, we will be a heck of a lot better off for the race with our Skittles Camry.”
How pleased are you with the points gained in the past several weeks thanks to your three victories?
“We just have to keep doing our deal every weekend and it’s been getting better and better. It’s certainly ideal when you win races and gives you the most points possible, but to do it in the fashion we have been – just winning these things – that’s just spectacular and that’s awesome.”
How special is it to get so many victories in such a short period?
“It’s been cool. I just can’t say enough about this group of guys behind me, everyone on this team and Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my pit crew. The group we’ve developed and the relationship we’ve had over the years with my pit crew from 2008. This is just an awesome feeling and, of course, thanks to everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing for the work they’ve done and the effort that they’ve put in. We weren’t as good as we needed to be last year, but certainly this year it seems to be that things are coming together for us, and all those guys working at the shop have been a huge part of that.”
What does it take to be successful at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is probably one of the trickiest places we go to on the schedule – Pocono being one, Darlington being one, Indy being another. It’s so hard to find a particular line that really, really works for you, or really works for your car, because the groove is so narrow. It’s plenty wide for one or one-and-a-half cars but, the line you run around there, you vary 6 inches and it feels so different. You really have to be particular in hitting your marks and getting your car set up. The way it changes throughout the weekend, going from practice, when there’s not much rubber on the racetrack, and then to the race, with a lot of rubber on the racetrack – the trajectory of the corners changes. How wide do you enter the corner? How long do you stay out? How sharp do you turn down? Indy’s definitely a particular racetrack and it’s exciting for us all to go there, especially with the history there and the prestige of winning that event. I’d love nothing more than to win there on Sunday with my Skittles Camry.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits?
“It’s very tight down the straightaways. You roll through (turns) one and two and there are people on the inside, there are people on the outside, there are people in the grass, just sitting along the back straightaway on the inside. You’ve got the golf course there, and fans sitting on the hills underneath the trees. You start back up into turn three, with the grandstands going around (turns) three and four, and then down the frontstretch and, again, there are two tunnels. There’s a tunnel at the (turns) one and two side, and on the (turns) three and four side. There’s a center road that runs all the way through and then, coming down the frontstretch again, looking on both sides of you, you’ve got the pit road, which is really narrow and really tight, and the grandstands on the inside and the outside. So, you’re going down a ‘V’ of just people – a sea of people. Coming to the Pagoda and the media center, the way it is, and of course the scoring pylon being as tall as it is, you come down there and, if you’re leading the race, sometimes you can’t see that high, so you’re kind of wondering who is second and third, or who is behind you. It stinks when you’re running in the back because you can see yourself (car number) right there.”
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