Going for ‘Three in a Row’ in Southern California
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (March 15, 2016) – After winning back-to-back races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 2013 and 2014 – both in dramatic fashion – the record book shows that Brad Keselowski ended Busch’s winning streak at the track by winning last year’s lone NASCAR Sprint Cup event at the 2-mile oval.
But what the record book doesn’t show is that Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), sat out last year’s Fontana race while recovering from injuries sustained in an accident in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
So as Busch and the M&M’S team head back to Southern California for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, the Las Vegas native will be shooting for his third win in a row at the track located approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
With three wins to his name there already, Busch’s Sprint Cup record at Fontana is impressive. Since scoring his maiden victory there in September 2005, he has rattled off 12 top-10 finishes in 17 races. Busch also has six Xfinity Series wins at Fontana – October 2008, February 2009 and 2010, October 2010, March 2011 and 2013 – at the 2-mile oval, which included a weekend sweep in 2013.
In Sprint Cup competition, Busch led a race-high 125 laps at Fontana in 2013 and brought home the checkered flag in dramatic fashion as he slid to the outside of the dueling Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin coming off turn four on the final lap. In his last trip to Fontana in 2014, Busch was not nearly as dominant, leading just five laps. However, known as one of the premiere Sprint Cup drivers when it comes to restarts, he showed the field why that day. He restarted fourth late in the race and held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson to bring home his second Fontana win in a row.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Busch and the M&M’S team figure to be among the contenders once again. Busch is the only driver to post top-five finishes in all four Sprint Cup races thus far this season, most recently coming home fourth last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Dating back to last year’s Sprint Cup championship season, Busch is riding an eight-race streak of top-five finishes.
So as Busch and the M&M’S team head back to Southern California to finish off the final race of 2016’s West Coast swing, Busch will not only hope to add another top-five to the resume, but this time celebrate his first victory of the season at a place where he’s already quite familiar with victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How special were the 2013 and 2014 wins at Auto Club Speedway?
“The finishes of both of those races were pretty exciting. Of course, I won both so that makes it even better for me. The track is just down the road from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) headquarters and our wins there were the first two Sprint Cup wins for them at their hometown track. We had the best car there all day in 2013 but we ended up getting some late cautions and had to make some hard decisions on whether to stay out on old tires or lose our track position. We ended up getting passed by Joey (Logano) and Denny (Hamlin) and thought they had the race won. They got caught up racing each other and I was coming, even if they didn’t end up wrecking. I was digging on the high side and they got together. I hated it for Denny since that was really a tough circumstance for him. It was a crazy finish, one that I won’t forget for a while, and I’m sure the fans won’t forget any time soon, either. In 2014, it was sort of the opposite. We really didn’t have the best car, but we got a chance at them with fresh tires and we were able to hold of Kyle Larson. So, I’m hoping we can get our M&M’S Camry back to victory lane there and win three races in a row – at least in the races I’ve been able to run in.”
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last several years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”
How much did your return to the team last May have to do with the success of JGR last season?
“There were a lot of things that came of that. It’s not just one thing in particular. It’s not a right-front spring or a right-rear spring or just something different. It was just kind of a philosophy. We had to redo our SIM model and stuff like that and that helped a lot of things, but also getting the crew chiefs a little more zoned in around the package of what the shop engineers wanted us to run, and them to kind of understand all that it took. I think it’s been better since. That’s kind of a useful thing, for sure. It’s been better and we’ve learned and I guess we’re still kind of on that path.”
What does it take to be successful at Fontana?
“It’s a fast racetrack and you just have to be able carry a lot of speed through the corners. You’re in the corner for a long time but, the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways. It’s a big, fast racetrack and I’m hoping we can get M&M’S their first win during their 75th anniversary celebration year.”
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