HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina –Halloween is here and, as has been typical for Kyle Busch the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the colorful candy maker will go racing with a special Halloween scheme Sunday afternoon at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to celebrate Halloween the following day.
The spooky-looking M&M’S scheme will race Sunday at a place that used to challenge Busch earlier in his career and early on in his now almost nine-year tenure with JGR. In fact, Busch finished outside the top-10 in three out of his first four races with JGR in 2008 and 2009. By contrast, Busch has scored four top-five finishes in his last seven starts there, with his worst finish being 15th.
At the pinnacle of recent Martinsville success for Busch and the M&M’s team is the defending Sprint Cup champion’s first career win at the paperclip-shaped oval this past in April. Not only did he bring home his first Martinsville clock, he did it in dominating fashion, leading five times for a race-high 352 laps en route to victory lane.
With just four races left in the season, and with the series kicking off the Round of 8 of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs at Martinsville this weekend, Busch knows a repeat performance from April could go a long way in his efforts to repeating as Sprint Cup champion for the M&M’S team. If Busch were to win Sunday at Martinsville, or at any of the following two events, he would guarantee a spot as one of the four drivers advancing to the winner-take-all finale Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that will decide this year’s Sprint Cup champion.
All season long, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team have not been ones to back down from a challenge. He was able to slip through the first two playoff rounds, most recently avoiding major trouble at Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Now that he’s made it to the final eight, Busch feels he has just as good a shot as anyone to vie for his second Sprint Cup title.
So as the season heads into the homestretch, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team know that when it comes to being championship eligible at Homestead, they’ll take the confidence built during the last several years at Martinsville. Since he has already conquered the .526-mile short track in southern Virginia once this year, Martinsville is not so spooky to Busch anymore.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel about the race this week at Martinsville?
“We’ve run well the last couple of times at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last time. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Halloween Camry.”
Are you looking forward to the next round?
“I look forward to the next round – we’ve got Martinsville, we’ve got Texas and we’ve got Phoenix. Those are all three really strong tracks for us. Honestly, I don’t know that there are tracks on the schedule that are weak points for us unless, obviously, there are crapshoot type races like Talladega or Daytona. We lived through Talladega last weekend, so we get to move on.”
What is the key to you getting a win at Martinsville?
“It’s a tough racetrack and, any time you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”
Your racecar is sporting the special M&M’s Halloween paint scheme this week. What was your favorite Halloween costume that you wore as a kid?
“Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year, I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was a kid.”
Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and trick-or-treating?
“It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone’s house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn’t be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home.”
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