HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina – One year later, Kyle Busch and his M&M’S team head back to the site of a memorable weekend in 2016, when he brought home not one, but two of the traditional grandfather clocks as winner of both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The weekend was memorable for more than just the sweep of the weekend races, as Busch brought home his first two wins of any kind at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval. After 21 trips there without a win, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finally found victory lane and the long sought-after grandfather clock trophy.
Even though celebrating his first Martinsville win was a huge accomplishment for Busch, what would happen on the ride home from Martinsville even got more attention. Martinsville, Virginia is located a little over two hours from where most of the teams and drivers are based in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.
Thus, drivers and teams tend to commute back and forth for the race weekend. As Busch and wife Samantha drove back toward Charlotte Sunday evening, they moved slowly in traffic and noticed a fan with a Kyle Busch M&M’S hat in the car next to them. On a whim, they rolled down the window to get the fan’s attention with a, “Hey, Wassup?” The fan, named Darienne Breazeale as the racing world learned later, had quite the excited reaction as Busch offered to sign her hat. Samantha Busch happened to shoot video the exchange and decided to post it on Twitter. Not surprisingly, the video went viral, quickly gaining more than 20 million views and ending up featured in mainstream media coverage. Safe to say the weekend was not only a success on track, it was also quite the success with Busch’s M&M’S fans, as well.
The southern Virginia short track used to challenge Busch earlier in his career, especially during the early years of racing under the JGR banner. In fact, Busch finished outside the top-10 in three out of his first four races there with JGR in 2008 and 2009. By contrast, Busch has scored five top-five finishes in his last eight Martinsville starts with his worst finish being 15th.
At the pinnacle of recent Martinsville success for Busch and the M&M’s team is the 2015 Cup Series champion’s first career win at the paperclip-shaped oval last April. Not only did he bring home his aforementioned first Martinsville clock, he did it in dominating fashion, leading five times for a race-high 352 laps en route to victory lane.
So as Busch heads back to Martinsville for Sunday’s Cup Series STP 500, he’ll hope to rekindle the magic from one year ago at the .526-mile short track in southern Virginia in hopes of collecting a few more grandfather clocks and perhaps some more fans in the process.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S 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 spring. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there a year ago at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Camry.”
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.”
Did running the Truck Series race at Martinsville help show you what you needed to bring home your first Cup win there last April?
“I’d say it certainly helps when you get to run other divisions and that’s why I do it – to pay off on Sundays. It doesn’t work every single weekend, but it works more times than it doesn’t, so can’t say enough about everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) for giving me a great piece to help me learn, teach me some more things about Martinsville that I didn’t already know in 30 other prior starts. Last year, we had a really good car through practice and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some really good adjustments overnight to keep us where we needed to be in order to run up front all day, lead a lot of laps – probably led the most laps there. To win at Martinsville was really cool – finally get to take a clock home.”
Where did you put the Martinsville Speedway grandfather clocks?
“One’s at home in the foyer and I had to turn off the buzzer because it’s close to (son) Brexton’s room, so we don’t get to hear it. We heard it a couple of times while it went off, but then I turned it off. And then, the other one, we’re just going to leave it at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) and have it there.”
Were you surprised by the response to your fan video from after the Martinsville Speedway race?
“Yeah, I was surprised at the response that it got, certainly. We were just kind of messing around rolling down the road in traffic and figured we’d give it a shot. I’ve done things like that before where I’ve just kind of waved at them or whatever. But her response – it seemed as though it initiated a little bit more where I asked her for her hat and gave her an autograph on the hat. It probably wouldn’t have happened if she was wearing another driver’s hat, but I don’t know maybe we’ll have to try to the flip side of that another day. She came to the track and we got to spend some time with her in Bristol a few weeks later, so it was a memorable time for all of us during this time last year.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine