HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Sept. 5, 2017) – With just one race remaining before the start of the 10-race, 16-driver Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Kyle Busch is headed to one of his best tracks looking to add to his playoff point total.
With his playoff spot firmly in hand by virtue of his second position in points and two race wins this season, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping to improve his playoff point total in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
With the introduction of stage racing in 2017, drivers have had the opportunity to add a playoff point for each stage win, along with five playoff points for each race victory. Those points are not only important for the first round of the playoffs, which begin next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, but can also be used throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs. With his 10 stage wins and two race wins, Busch’s 20 playoff points is second only to regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr.’s 37.
The good news for Busch is that he now heads to his most consistent track looking to add to the total – the .75-mile Richmond short track in Virginia’s capital city. Along with four series wins there, Busch has amassed 15 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 24 career starts at Richmond. Additionally, the Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 7.3 at Richmond, tops among active drivers. Next best is Kevin Harvick, whose average finish there is 8.2. Busch has completed all but one of the 9,623 laps available to him in his 24 Richmond starts. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 8,462 laps, or 87.9 percent, which is second-most among active drivers.
Saturday night, Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team look to get back to Richmond’s victory lane, where Busch ended up after four consecutive spring race wins from 2009 to 2012, besting Richard Petty’s previous record of three Richmond spring race wins in a row from 1971 to 1973. With those impressive statistics and records to back him up, it’s little wonder that a visit to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia” is one of Busch’s favorite stops on the NASCAR tour.
So, as the series heads back to Richmond for the final race of the 2017 regular season, Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team look to bring home their fifth career win there. Whether or not they make it back to victory lane, history has shown they’ll have the driver and team everyone will be on the lookout for as they make one last playoff push before the postseason begins.
What does it take to get around Richmond?
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are. The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. You have to have good brakes, as well, and be able to turn the center. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Caramel Camry back to form there. We were very good there in the spring but let one get away with the commitment line deal, but we’d like to get another victory there, for sure.”
What is it about Richmond that suits your driving style?
“I love Richmond. It’s one of my favorite racetracks and one of my best racetracks. I love being able to go there and, of course, we put on some pretty good races there. We won four spring races in a row and I would have loved to have made it five or more. It’s a neat racetrack and it’s certainly an excitement track and there is a lot of action that happens there.”
Why is Joe Gibbs Racing so strong at Richmond?
“I think a lot of it comes from Denny (Hamlin), being that it’s his home track. I’ve been good there in Hendrick and JGR cars. But Denny and I really feed off each other an awful lot at Richmond. We use each other a ton there, just to be sure we can beat the rest of the competition, of course. We do like similar setups there, unlike some other places we run. Richmond is one of those places where we both know what it takes to get around and we’re both similar to one another in that we both run well. Matt (Kenseth) has only added to our information there as well.”
Can you compare Bristol and Richmond, both places that you’ve been successful at?
“There’s really no comparison between racetracks, honestly, because Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta – they all look the same from overhead, but they all drive not even close to the same. Richmond and Bristol are more than oil and water, more than day and night. Bristol is an attack-type racetrack yet, when you attack, you can get yourself in trouble. Richmond is a very methodical racetrack and you have to be – you’re very much on edge there all the time, especially corner entry, getting into the corners. You’re always loose there and you have to be able to be loose there in order to carry the speed through the middle and have good drive off. With the day race versus night at Richmond in the fall, I think it’s kind of the same play as any race. Sometimes nighttime just feeds itself with not as much grip and makes it to where the bottom is the preferred lane and daytime allows the racetrack to widen out and be hotter where, on a cooler racetrack, you’re looking for where the rubber is for at least a little while until the whole track rubbers in, and then you have to go back to the bottom, anyway. It’s just a matter of trying to put on the best show for the fans. They’re the ones who pay their hard-earned money to watch us race and we want to make sure we do our best. I think that’s a lot of the consideration to how many day races there are compared to night races, but still I think you need to have your fair share of night races, for sure.”
Do you enjoy the atmosphere at Richmond?
“I think the coolest thing about Richmond is the atmosphere they have there with all the fans really getting into it. People love coming there and supporting that racetrack. It’s been around for a long time. It’s a fast racetrack. It’s only a three-quarter-mile oval but it has really high speeds that makes it fun for us drivers and makes excitement that’s fun for a fan. Martinsville is a short track and it’s slow, but Richmond is pretty quick.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine