Finding a ‘Nose’ for Victory Lane at Kansas
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (May 9, 2017) – One year ago this weekend, Kyle Busch finally found his “nose” for victory at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. A look at his last eight starts on the 1.5-mile oval shows the last four starts there were quite the opposite of his four previous starts.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Kansas as the defending race winner of Saturday night’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Go Bowling 400, where things didn’t always go nearly as well as his race there one year ago.
The 1.5-mile oval built in 2001, which originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns, underwent a massive renovation project leading into its October 2012 Cup Series event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, Busch had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time, for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.
Feeling snake bit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked the track in the Heartland of America with the hopes that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result and effort was much different than the three previous trips. Instead, they were competitive enough to turn the corner in terms of results.
In the October 2014 Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first ever top-five finish at Kansas. Anyone who has ever followed Busch’s career knows the 2015 Cup Series champion never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum carried over from his first top-five at Kansas in October 2014 has remained to this day. So much so that, last May, Busch was able to bring home his first Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile oval – in the special M&M’S Red nose day scheme, no less – and follow it up with another top-five finish in the fall race. Finally, with the surface starting to wear, Kansas has become a place much more agreeable to Busch’s driving style.
For the third year in a row, M&M’S is partnering with Red Nose Day to encourage Americans to come together and get their #NosesOn to help end child poverty. M&M’S will once again donate more than $1 million to the Red Nose Day Fund to support programs that ensure children in need are safe, healthy and educated, both in the United States and around the world. In addition, this year’s Red Nose Day race broadcast will feature a new 60-second spot from M&M’S, showing the pride and passion of associates at Mars and that their dedication to bringing smiles to children in need goes above and beyond making chocolate candies. To learn more about M&M’S Red Nose Day efforts, follow the M&M’S social channels and check out hashtag #NosesOn.
To join in on the Red Nose Day fun, Busch and his No. 18 M&M'S Toyota will feature the aforementioned special Red Nose Day paint scheme in Saturday night’s race. And Busch and his car won’t be the only ones at Kansas donning Red Noses for the cause as M&M’S will provide attendees at Saturday night’s prerace festivities with their own Red Nose. Busch will also have some fun with fans by being part of a #NosesOn super selfie after a special Red Nose Day fan Q&A.
So, as the Cup Series heads to Kansas for Saturday’s race under the lights, Busch hopes his newly found success at Kansas helps him bring home his fifth consecutive top-five and his second career Cup Series wins in the Heartland of America.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What did it mean to win at yet another track for the first time in the Cup Series when you were able to cross Kansas off the list last year?
“Until recently, I’ve not had very many opportunities to win at Kansas and hopefully get into victory lane there again this weekend with our M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota. I’m excited about that opportunity and working with this team of guys and (crew chief) Adam Stevens and everybody he has assembled. It’s so much fun. As you’ve seen so far this year, there are certain circumstances that can go against you, and you just have to persevere and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls. When you run well, those wins will eventually come, as frustrating as it’s been so far this season.”
You won at Kansas last May after all the trouble and so many close calls and so much bad luck. Does it help the confidence at all for you guys going in there and knowing that you finally hit on something there?
“It certainly did. We have had some good teammates to lean on and we used (Matt) Kenseth’s notes prior to last year to help us a bit, and that’s really made a difference there. Normally, in years past, I probably wouldn’t say those words but, you know, it’s actually not been a bad place for us there, recently. We’ve had a good string of top-fives so, hopefully, we can go there and have another good, solid run, have a good finish, and the biggest thing for us is to just don’t beat ourselves right now. Don’t make the mistakes that some of these other guys did, try to keep our nose clean. And, if there’s a win, great, get it, and if not, get what you can get – third, fourth, fifth, whatever it can be.”
Kansas had been a frustrating place for you during your career, but have you and your team turned the corner there with four top-five finishes in a row there?
“I think so. We ran third there in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t there in the spring race of 2015 since that was the last race I was recovering from my injury, but (Erik) Jones ran up front until he ended up wrecking. Last fall, Adam (Stevens) and the M&M’S guys did an awesome job and we ran top-five again. The last few races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Adam and the guys have been bringing really good racecars to the track every weekend and, when you have great cars and run up front, good things are going to happen.”
Are you doing anything different in the racecar now, compared to earlier in your career?
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that I’m doing anything different. Certainly, I think that circumstances are going our way maybe a little bit more. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve just had some really fast racecars. The guys have been doing a great job at Joe Gibbs Racing, both on the Xfinity side and the Cup side. Overall, I think there are some things still for me to learn over the years that maybe I’m not quite as good at that I could be better at, just different racetracks and being able to run well at different times or different aspects. Charlotte for instance – haven’t won there – Pocono, and places like that, I feel like we can go each and every week and have a legitimate chance to win each and every week. We just would like to finish one of these off this year and get to victory lane.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine