HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – Aside from NASCAR’s biggest events like the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win at the hometown racetrack is high on the priority list for many in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Las Vegas native Kyle Busch crossed off an all-important hometown win in just his fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Kobalt 400.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas’ Durango High School would like to double his number of Cup Series wins at the 1.5-mile oval after he brought home that emotional first win there in 2009.
Driving the yellow M&M’S Toyota that day, Busch qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field because the team needed to change engines during Friday practice. Unfazed, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’S team worked their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. Busch went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.
While that win was special, Busch already was no stranger to winning on Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the facility’s “Bullring,” which existed for several years before the 1.5-mile oval was built. Busch eventually moved up to Late Model Stock cars and his winning ways continued as he captured 10 victories in Late Model competition at the Bullring in 2001.
In addition to celebrations at the Bullring and the aforementioned 2009 Cup Series win in his hometown, Busch came agonizingly close last year to bringing home his second Cup Series win in the shadows of his childhood home. An incredible restart vaulted Busch from sixth to the lead of last year’s Las Vegas race with less than 40 laps to go. However, a vibration that turned out to be a loose wheel caused Busch to lose the lead with five laps to go. It was a tough pill to swallow as he had another Vegas celebration in his sights.
This weekend, Mars brand Ethel M Chocolate, which has a factory and store located in nearby Henderson, Nevada, will also get into the act. Not only will Ethel M have its logo adorn the rear decklid of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota, it will also sport decals for the Kyle Busch Chocolate Collection in honor of Busch’s return to his hometown.
The Kyle Busch Chocolate Collection is a limited, 16-piece chocolate assortment featuring Busch’s favorite Ethel M specialties. Wrapped in custom NASCAR-branded packaging, the collection is available for fans to purchase online at www.ethelm.com, and at Ethel M locations, including its factory store in Henderson, at McCarran Airport Boutique, and at M&M’S World® on Las Vegas Boulevard. Busch will also visit the Ethel M location in Las Vegas Thursday for an exclusive question-and-answer session at 4 p.m. PST.
So as Busch returns to Las Vegas this weekend, the only thing that will be sweeter than winning his first Cup Series race there would be winning a second one as Busch looks to avenge the tough finish to the 2016 race and add another Vegas trophy to his list of accomplishments.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is there more pressure racing at your hometown track?
“Yeah, Vegas always means a little bit more pressure – more pressure on myself – just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there. Thankfully, I have won there and I’ve knocked that one off the list, but certainly you want to win there every year. It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most there, but I love Vegas, the atmosphere and everything going on around that place. Last year was tough to swallow. We led at the end and had a loose wheel, so all I could do was just hold onto it and not put our car in the fence. It’s always been a big race for us and the M&M’S team, so I’m hoping we can bring home another win there.”
What was it like to bring home a Cup Series win in your hometown in 2009?
“It was cool. To go out there and to run a smooth race and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen.”
Having grown up in Las Vegas, do you still have a lot of friends in the area? Do you get a lot of ticket requests from friends and family?
“I get a lot of ticket requests for California, Vegas and Phoenix – all the West Coast stops that we run. It’s kind of hard to fulfill all of them, but we try when we can. We get to go to M&M’S World on the (Las Vegas) Strip to sign some autographs on Thursday and I’ll be doing a Q&A at Ethel M on Thursday as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the hometown fans there, as well.”
Are you able to enjoy trips to your hometown?
“It’s fine going back there. There’s really not much family out there. It’s just family friends. There are a lot of friends you get to see and catch up with that you text back-and-forth or talk back-and-forth with during the year, but you never get to see them, so that’s always cool to go out there to the race. Besides that, there are the different appearances we do for M&M’S. You get to go to some of the restaurants that you liked there growing up, so that’s always cool. It’s just another weekend, but I particularly know my way around this city better than I do any other place.”
What is your fondest racing memory of growing up in Las Vegas?
“My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that is definitely a great memory to have.”
- Mike Zizzo
Director of Media Relations
Texas Motor Speedway