HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – In his 10th season with Toyota flagship Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS® Crisper Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, the place where the winning began in 2008 with JGR, Mars Inc. and its SNICKERS® brand, and Toyota.
Back in 2008, his first year with JGR, Busch headed to Atlanta for the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season aiming to bring home his first win for the team’s two new partners – Mars Chocolate North America and Toyota.
After leading a race-high 173 laps, the Las Vegas native captured his first win for the SNICKERS® brand and also the first win in NASCAR’s top series for Toyota, which was in its second year of Cup Series competition and its first year with JGR.
The win also marked the end of a 147-race drought for JGR’s No. 18 team, and it was Busch’s first of 30 Cup Series wins for JGR, so far. Busch has now totaled 149 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series driving Toyota vehicles – 34 in the Cup Series, 75 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and 40 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Add 21 overall wins prior to joining JGR at the beginning of 2008 and Busch is at 170 combined Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series wins, and counting.
It was déjà vu all over again for Busch and the No. 18 team at Atlanta in 2013 as he led 36 laps en route to his 100th overall win in a Toyota and his 24th Cup Series win with JGR.
This weekend, Busch will also have the SNICKERS® Crisper scheme along for the ride once again after the scheme debuted last August at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The SNICKERS® Crisper is “crispy satisfaction” in the form of crisped rice and peanuts, topped with a layer of caramel and coated in creamy SNICKERS® brand milk chocolate. A singles pack of SNICKERS® Crisper contains two squares that are less than 100 calories each. For more information on SNICKERS® or the Crisper variety, fans can visit SNICKERS® on Facebook or Twitter.
Busch is especially looking forward to competing at Atlanta this weekend as it will be the last event on the track’s current racing surface. The 1.5-mile oval is set to be repaved before NASCAR makes its next visit in 2018. Busch and his entire No. 18 SNICKERS® Crisper Toyota Camry team hope to add to their winning ways at Atlanta by rolling up their collective sleeves as they try to rekindle the magic from 2008 and 2013 in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
So as the Cup Series heads back to Atlanta, Busch and the SNICKERS® Crisper team will undoubtedly be feeling just a bit nostalgic with the SNICKERS® colors on the racecar, all the while recalling those 2008 and 2013 race wins at the 1.5-mile oval where the winning all began.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Crisper Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What kind of race are you expecting at Atlanta this year?
“The racetrack has aged really nicely, where it’s probably aged too much, and why they have to choice but to repave it. It’s a place where you can run the bottom all the way from the white line all the way to the wall and anywhere in-between. You have to have a good car there, but it’s a neat racetrack with the way you can race around and move around and not get too comfortable running one lane. Our guys have brought good cars there in the past and I’m hoping we can go for the win with our SNICKERS Crisper Camry.”
Are your expectations high going to Atlanta since JGR has won several races there over the years?
“Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen and we’ll definitely have to be on our toes there this weekend since it’s the first race there with less downforce than last year’s package, and our first race at a 1.5-mile oval this season. You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else – so you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early or save a little and be there late.”
Is Atlanta like a tuneup for other upcoming mile-and-a-half tracks?
“Every weekend is a test of what you try, what you want to do differently, and see if you can find anything else that works for you. Atlanta is a lot different than most of the other mile-and-halves just because of the asphalt and the way the grip is and the way the tire is. You don’t necessarily see the same sorts of things at the other mile-and-a-halves that you will at Atlanta.”
What are your memories of racing in Atlanta?
“I’ve won a few Truck Series races there. That was fun. I won for the first time in a Xfinity race there last year, so that was very cool. I finished second three or four times, so it’s been an Achilles heel for me, I guess. The Cup races there, I’ve either been really good or really bad, it seems. There have been times where I’ve been really good throughout the event. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to keep the grip in my car for the long haul, as long as you need to throughout a run.”
What does it take to be successful at Atlanta?
“It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of downforce, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”
What did you think of the speed at Atlanta the first time you raced there?
“My first time there was 2003 in an Xfinity Series car and it was definitely fast. It’s all relative. You run the same speed around everybody and it really doesn’t feel that fast, so it feels like you do anywhere else, whether you’re at Las Vegas or Chicago or Kansas or any of those places.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine