HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway for the last weekend of the regular season and the series’ inaugural Fan Appreciation celebration, race fans aren’t the only ones who appreciate the .75-mile short track in Virginia’s capital city.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has an appreciation for Richmond, as well, and his numbers there make it easy to tell why. 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 15 top-fives in just 22 career Sprint Cup starts.
Additionally, the Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 6.9 at Richmond, tops among active drivers. Next best is Kevin Harvick, whose average finish there is 8.4. Busch has completed all but one of the 8,816 laps available to him in his 22 Richmond starts. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 7,732 laps, or 87.1 percent, which is second-most among active drivers.
Saturday night, Busch and the M&M’S 75th Anniversary team look to get back to victory lane, where Busch ended up after four consecutive spring-race wins from 2009 to 2012, besting Richard Petty’s previous record of three Richmond spring-race wins in a row from 1971 to 1973. This past April, Busch came so very close to bringing home his fifth Richmond win, but teammate Carl Edwards bumped and slipped past the defending Sprint Cup champion on the last lap. 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.
This weekend, on top of the always-exciting on-track action at Richmond, fans will be able to enjoy some off-track fun. A partnership forged between the track and M&M’S has enabled the colorful brand to continue its 75th anniversary celebration with a thank you to all the fans throughout the weekend at Richmond as part of Fan Appreciation Weekend. The celebration will include an interactive area in the Richmond midway, where fans can sample M&M’S products, along with an exclusive question-and-answer session with defending Sprint Cup-champion Busch at the Toyota Pit Pass Saturday afternoon, hosted jointly by M&M’S and Toyota. That evening, the fan appreciation will continue as Busch will sport a “Thanks Fans” message on the rear bumper of his M&M’S 75th Anniversary Camry.
So, as the series wraps up the regular season Saturday night at Richmond, Busch and Company hope to finish off NASCAR’s regular season with a series-high fifth win that would be a fifth career Richmond win, as well. With the pressure being off for one more race, the defending series champion hopes his appreciation for Richmond ends in victory lane before his attention shifts to the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs opener next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You enter Richmond tied for a series-high four wins. Would a fifth this weekend give you momentum going into the Chase?
“We show up every week to win. Richmond has been a good track for us, and we almost pulled off the win there in the spring. It’s always nice to have as many wins as possible heading into the first round since you never know what’s going to happen in the first round of the Chase, or any round, for that matter. We had trouble with a blown tire at New Hampshire, and if we didn’t have the bonus points from our four wins, we wouldn’t have made it to the second round. So, you would certainly rather have those points than not. Richmond is one of my favorite tracks, so hoping we can get our M&M’S 75th Anniversary Camry to victory lane this weekend and add a few more bonus points to start the Chase.”
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 of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S 75th Anniversary 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 the last couple of years, 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 atmosphere they have there with all the fans really getting into it. 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.”
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