HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – The life of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver can be hectic. With 38 weekends of racing in a 40-week span, the marathon-like schedule of NASCAR’s top series can be incredibly grueling as the racing series crisscrosses the country from as far east as Loudon, New Hampshire to as far west as Sonoma, California.
While Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), and his wife Samantha live a lot of their lives out of a suitcase, a part of home they bring with them whenever possible are their dogs Kelly, Suzie and Lucy.
While the three Busch canines are no strangers to the racetrack, they will be in a unique position – actually, their likenesses will be – during Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. Kelly, Suzie and Lucy will ride along with Busch as their pictures will adorn Busch’s No. 18 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota.
Kyle and Samantha Busch travel with their four-legged friends every opportunity they get, and this is the first time they’ll be included on the No. 18 Toyota Camry paint scheme fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. West-Highland Terriers Suzie and Kelly have been part of Busch’s extended race team since he began racing in NASCAR’s top touring series in 2005. Lucy, a Pomeranian Yorkie, joined the family shortly after the Busches were married in 2010.
Founded in 1955, Banfield Pet Hospital is the largest privately owned veterinary practice in the world. The practice has more than 850 hospitals in the United States and Puerto Rico, most of which are located inside PetSmart stores. And, good news for the Busches in case there is a need for veterinary service while on they’re on the road, chances are there is always a Banfield Pet Hospital nearby.
In fact, Sunday at Phoenix, a local Banfield Pet veterinarian will be making a house call at-track to perform a preventive health check for Lucy, as well as a few other pets that are a part of NASCAR’s traveling contingent.
As for this weekend’s race itself, the desert setting of Phoenix has been a favorite place to wheel a racecar for Busch long before he joined the Sprint Cup ranks. And the results have certainly shown, starting with a solid eighth-place finish in his very first outing there in the spring of 2005, followed by just his second career Sprint Cup victory in his very next start there in the fall race that year. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Sprint Cup win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not all too far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
In 19 Sprint Cup starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win and 12 top-10 finishes, including four in a row from the spring 2007 through fall 2008 events, and he won the pole for the spring 2006 race. Busch also was in position to win Sprint Cup races at Phoenix in 2010, as well as the February 2011 race, and both races there in 2012, but things never fell his way. Since then, he’s added two more top-10 finishes these past two seasons.
So, heading to the next-to-last Sprint Cup race of 2014, Busch would like nothing more than to find his way to victory lane Sunday not only for Banfield Pet Hospital, but for his “family” that’s along for the ride. It would make for a “doggone” huge celebration.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You and your team battled back from a lap down last week and brought home a good finish at Texas. What does that and this entire Chase say about you and this race team?
“We’ve finished well in this Chase, there’s no doubt. Obviously, getting caught up in that wreck at Talladega was frustrating and disheartening for all of us on this team. But these guys on the 18 team have dug in and have never given up. Last week, we were not competitive for the first part of the race, got a lap down, but we all kept fighting. We finally got our lap back and we had a shot at the win there in the end. No matter where we end up, we’ve shown that we belong. I’m hoping we can get a win before the year is out and we’ll work at getting one this weekend with Banfield Pet Hospital and our dogs Kelly, Suzie and Lucy riding along with me as part of our paint scheme at Phoenix.”
You tested at Phoenix several weeks back. How much did you learn and how much confidence does that give you this weekend?
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been off as a company at Phoenix. We knew we needed to go out there and test and learn some things and try and get competitive there again. I think we learned some things there a while back, but we’ll see how it applies to the race weekend. You never know how it’s going to be until you get out there and see how you stack up. The surface has aged a bit so, hopefully, we have some more lanes to work with during the race on Sunday.”
How excited are you to have the Banfield Pet Hospital scheme on board this weekend that features your three dogs on the quarterpanels?
“Were expecting an addition to the family in May, but we’ve already had our “babies” – the dogs – for quite some time. We’ve been talking to Mars about having our dogs on one of our cars and, thanks to Banfield, we were able to do that for the Phoenix race and Samantha (wife) and I are really excited about it. We obviously travel most of the year doing what we do in NASCAR, so we know that if we have any of the dogs with us and they have health issues, there is likely a Banfield Pet Hospital not too far away from wherever we are. Banfield also is big into preventive care for our pets, as well, which is important. I think everyone knows that we’ve been dog lovers our whole lives – my mom, dad, grandparents. Everyone feels like our pets are our children. I know a lot of NASCAR fans feel the same way about their pets. We’ll look forward to getting some pictures of the dogs on the Banfield car this weekend and we are pretty pumped about the opportunity.”
What do you think about the track surface at Phoenix?
“I hope it aged a little bit so then we can all race a little bit better. It’s been a little bit difficult to pass, it’s felt like, still, and getting into turn one has been a little bit slick. I think that’s kind of always been the tradition at Phoenix. I think it should be a good one, hopefully, and we just need to get a little bit better. We weren’t great but we weren’t terrible there in the spring so, hopefully, we can run up front like we did there last fall and get us a win this time with our Banfield Pet Hospital Camry.”
- John Acosta
Director of Marketing, Customer Acquisition
Bass Pro Shops