HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 8, 2015) – Kyle Busch’s seventh-place finish in last Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway marked his eighth top-10 finish of the season. But it was much more than just another top-10 finish for the driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). It meant Busch successfully pulled off a feat that many people – including himself – weren’t exactly sure could be possible.
After missing the first 11 races of 2015 because of injury, Busch had just 15 races to not only win at least one race, but to overcome a 179-point deficit in order to make it into the top-30 in driver points. Not only did Busch make it, he won four races and clinched his position within the top-30 prior to the final race of NASCAR’s regular season Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
For Busch and his team, the pressure is off this weekend as, for this one race, they’ll not have to worry about points and can race purely for the victory.
There’s even better news – they head to one of Busch’s favorites racetracks at Richmond, site of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400. Busch’s numbers at the .75-mile short track tell the story. His most recent win at Richmond in May 2012 was the fourth of his career there to go with four runner-up finishes and an amazing 13 top-fives in just 20 career Sprint Cup starts in Virginia’s capital city.
The Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 7.4 at Richmond, tops among active drivers. Next best is Kevin Harvick, whose average finish there is 8.3. Busch has completed all but one of the 8,016 laps available to him at Richmond. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 6,932 laps, or 86.5 percent, which is second-most among active drivers.
This weekend at Richmond, Busch and the M&M’S Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate team look to get back to the level of performance they exhibited there when they won four consecutive spring races from 2009 to 2012, which bested Richard Petty’s previous record of three Richmond spring-race wins in a row from 1971 to 1973. With those impressive statistics and records to back him up, it’s little wonder that a visit to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia” is one of Busch’s favorite stops on the NASCAR tour.
So as the series wraps up the regular season Saturday night, Busch and Company hope to finish off their storybook comeback with their fifth win of the season – since the pressure is off for just this one race.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it mean to overcome what you have this season to make the Chase?
“Making the Chase was something we weren’t all sure was possible after my injuries. It’s a great opportunity to be with these guys on this M&M’S Crispy team. They’re working really hard at Joe Gibbs Racing. We’ve got a lot of speed and I think all four cars have a really good shot at this championship. I’m just proud of everyone who works on this program and has believed in me and the team. We’ll go out at Richmond this weekend and shoot for the win since we aren’t in a points situation for at least this weekend.”
What does it take to get around Richmond?
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are, and the tire hasn’t really changed there in the last few years – we may be due for an update on that. The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. You have to have good brakes, as well, and be able to turn the center. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond – it’s a fun place to race, it’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Crispy/American Heritage Chocolate Camry back to form there from a couple of years ago.”
What is it about Richmond that suits your driving style?
“I love Richmond. It’s one of my favorite racetracks and one of my best racetracks. I love being able to go there and, of course, we put on some pretty good races there. We won four spring races in a row and I would have loved to have made it five or more. It’s a neat racetrack and it’s certainly an excitement track and there is a lot of action that happens under the lights on Saturday night there.”
Why is Joe Gibbs Racing so strong at Richmond?
“I think a lot of it comes from Denny (Hamlin), being that it’s his home track. I’ve been good there in Hendrick and JGR cars. But Denny and I really feed off each other an awful lot at Richmond. We use each other a ton there, just to be sure we can beat the rest of the competition, of course. We do like similar setups there, unlike some other places we run. Richmond is one of those places where we both know what it takes to get around and we’re both similar to one another in that we both run well. Matt (Kenseth) has only added to our information there and now, with Carl (Edwards) on board, he’s a guy who’s been very good over the years there, as well.”
Do you enjoy the atmosphere at Richmond?
“I think the coolest thing about Richmond is the grandstands being all the way around the racetrack, and it’s at the fairgrounds. People love coming there and supporting that racetrack. It’s been around for a long time. It’s a fast racetrack. It’s only a three-quarter-mile oval but it has really high speeds that makes it fun for us drivers and makes excitement that’s fun for a fan. Martinsville is a short track and it’s slow, but Richmond is pretty quick.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine