HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Kyle Busch is back. And a quick look at the statistics says it all about the hot streak he and the M&M’S Crispy team are on.
Busch brought home what he called the biggest win of his career Sunday in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The win was his third in a row and his fourth win in his last five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Those stats would be amazing without all that he has overcome so far in 2015, which makes the feat even more remarkable.
After suffering a broken right leg and left foot in February, Busch missed the first 11 races of the season before finally returning to the cockpit in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. What he’s done since his return defies logic. In just nine Sprint Cup races since his return, Busch has won four of them. In the ultra-competitive Sprint Cup Series, a hot streak of this nature is very rare, not mention the fact he’s returning from serious injury. In fact, there are only 20 drivers in the history of NASCAR who have won three or more consecutive races. Busch joins Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon as the only active drivers to do so.
Along with Busch, a partner he is closely aligned with has also made a comeback in 2015. After a 10-year hiatus, the M&M’S Crispy brand made a comeback of its own in 2015. The company brought back the product by popular demand with similar success. So as impeccable timing goes, just 50 miles separate the headquarters of Mars Chocolate North America and the site of the next Sprint Cup race – Sunday’s Windows 10 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Busch will no doubt find plenty of encouragement during the prerace visit to Mars Chocolate North America. There, the M&M’S Crispy driver and the entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team will have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Mars associates, and many of those same associates will travel just down the road to Pocono Sunday to cheer for Busch.
Riding a tidal wave of momentum, Busch will take aim at one of the few remaining tracks in Pocono at which he has yet to win in the Sprint Cup Series. After crossing Indianapolis off the list this past Sunday, the Las Vegas native now has only five tracks where he has failed to reach victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series. Those are: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Homestead-Miami Speedway and this weekend’s venue in Pocono.
With four wins since his return from injury this season, Busch and the M&M’S Crispy team keep making huge gains in 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 six races before the 16-driver Chase field is locked in, Busch sits just 23 points behind 30th-place Justin Allgaier. Busch has shaved an astounding 150 points off the deficit during the past five races, the only non-win during that span being a 17th-place result at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. With just a 23-point gap, it’s possible that a strong run Sunday at Pocono could place Busch in the top-30 in the standings.
So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S Crispy team will look to ride the huge wave of momentum back to victory lane for the fourth race in a row and for the first time at the “Tricky Triangle.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do the four wins you’ve been able to get in a five-race span boggle the mind?
“It does, a little bit. This is unbelievable. This is something special. There’s nothing else like it. I’m so blessed to be in the position I’m in. I can’t thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing enough – Joe Gibbs (owner), J.D. Gibbs (president) and the entire family – for giving me the opportunity. I know I have plenty of blessings. My wife (Samantha) and my son (Brexton), too. This has been a phenomenal return. I won’t say phenomenal year because it was a dismal year to start with, but I guess I’ll take that 11-week vacation any year if it’s going to look like this. I can’t thank everyone at M&M’S and Toyota enough, all the people who stood behind me, for their support, as well.”
With all this momentum, what’s your outlook going back to Pocono for the second time this year?
“I’m looking forward to Pocono with our M&M’S Crispy Camry. It’s a place where you run similar setups to Indy, but with a different aero package than we had last week at Indy, but the same package we had at Pocono earlier this year, so there’s no change in that. I think there’s a good opportunity for us to excel. If we could bring home four in a row, that would be something special, especially at a place I have yet to win at, so I would love to cross that one off the list.”
How much did being away from racing make you hungry and help you out with your comeback? Also, how much has your role as a new father changed your outlook away from the track?
“Being away for 11 weeks was tough, but really there was nothing I could do about it. It was pretty hard times. It was tough to fight through all those things that I had to go through, Samantha had to go through while she was pregnant. She was helping me and everything that we did there. But, ever since being able to get back walking again, it was OK, and just all the steps we went through to get back into the racecar was quite challenging. Once we came back, I felt like I just continued right on my stride that I left with, and I knew Adam Stevens and I could achieve. He’s obviously a great leader of this team. I love him to death and he’s doing a really good job, and obviously we’re having fun doing what we’re doing.”
Are you more confident now that you’ll indeed be in the Chase?
“I don’t have any doubts, but we’re still not there and, even if we did get there, we still have got to be able to protect that spot and make it into the Chase. Whether we get into the Chase and become Chase eligible next week, or the week after or the week after that, it doesn’t matter as long as it comes by post-race Richmond. That’s all that matters. Whether we get in and whether we continue to grow and get top-25, none of that matters, just us being able to achieve the top-30 rule and get as many wins as possible in order to give us the top seed come Chase time.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”
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