HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Nov. 7, 2017) – There have been 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have won two or more championships since the sport was founded in 1959.
Kyle Busch is hoping to become the 16th this season after winning his first title in 2015.
But before Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), can contend for the championship Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he first must trek west for the penultimate race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
The Can-Am 500k is this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, the 35th of 36 races on the schedule. Busch, along with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., are already locked into the winner-take-all Championship 4 at Homestead. One more driver will be added after the Phoenix race is complete.
So, could this weekend in Phoenix be a throwaway race for Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team?
No. Absolutely not.
Busch finished a solid eighth in his very first outing at Phoenix in the spring of 2005, followed by his second career Cup Series victory in his next start there in the fall race that year. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Cup Series win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not too far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
In 24 Cup Series starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. He’s finished no worse than fourth in his last four races at Phoenix.
This weekend, Busch hopes to have another solid run at Phoenix to prepare himself for the ultimate championship race in South Florida.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How much confidence do you have heading to Phoenix this weekend?
“We really look forward to heading back to Phoenix with how well we ran there in the spring. We had the best car there, but a caution came out and hurt us, putting us in a tough spot on whether to pit or not. That’s how it goes, sometimes. That place wasn’t the best for our company years ago, but we’ve worked really hard at JGR on our cars and setups there and we are really much better there as a company. I’m really proud of all the work and progress we’ve made, so Adam (Stevens, crew chief), the guys and I will work hard this weekend and hope it puts us in the right position in the end for another win. I’m looking forward to getting out there and hope we can carry some momentum with this M&M’S Caramel team, myself, and everybody at JGR as we try to win a championship at Homestead the following week.”
What is your outlook for Phoenix after how hard Joe Gibbs Racing has worked to improve there?
“Yeah, that’s the key right there – we’ve worked a ton about everywhere, but especially at Phoenix, and we’re getting to where we want to be. We almost won that race in the spring, so I feel good about our chances again this weekend. From there, all the focus will be on Homestead and what we can do to win there. It’s nice to get to Homestead, but what matters is if you win it.”
What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?
“You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but heading there with our M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out.”
In addition to 10 Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix, you also won in your second Cup Series start at the mile oval. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave. For some reason, I’ve always run well there. I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you have two distinctly different sets of corners at Phoenix.”
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