What to get a guy for his birthday who seemingly has everything?
If that guy happens to be Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), who is the owner of 26 first-place trophies in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition and 111 winner’s trophies in all among NASCAR’s top three series, the answer is quite simple – more trophies.
Busch blows out the candles to celebrate his 28th birthday Thursday and will hope to carry the celebration on to victory lane at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as the winner of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499.
Even though his 28th birthday doesn’t fall on race day this time around, Busch has won on his birthday before. He became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday with a win at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on May 2, 2009, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough – twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983. Since then, Busch’s JGR teammate Matt Kenseth equaled the feat as he won earlier this year on his March 10 birthday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
While winning any race is always a birthday bonus, Busch got a head start on partaking of some birthday dessert when he stayed over an extra day following Saturday’s race at Richmond to film a segment for the afternoon talk and cooking show “The Chew.” Busch gave some pointers to renowned chefs and show hosts Mario Batali and Michael Symon on how to get around Richmond’s three-quarter-mile oval in his M&M’s Camry. Batali and Symon were also able to return the favor as they cooked an M&M’s Banana Skillet Cake in the track’s victory lane. The segment is scheduled to air Friday at 1 p.m. EDT on local ABC network affiliates.
As for this weekend, Busch has conquered the mammoth Talladega oval just once in 16 career starts at the track, his lone win coming in April 2008. Busch has accumulated five other top-15 finishes at the track but also exited five outings early due to accidents.
The Las Vegas native returns to Talladega having narrowly missed out on a victory last May at the 2.66-mile superspeedway when Busch and eventual race winner Brad Keselowski broke away from the pack on the final lap. As Busch pushed Keselowski, he had hoped to dive to the inside as they hit the frontstretch toward the checkered flag. But, as the duo entered turn three, Busch lost the draft behind Keselowski’s rear bumper, and all he could do was ride it out to the checkered flag a short distance behind the eventual Sprint Cup champion. In last year’s fall Talladega race, Busch narrowly escaped a 25-car accident to pull off a strong third-place finish.
With those recent results still fresh on his mind, Busch knows the winner of Sunday’s 500-mile race will not only need to have a strong car, but must be in the right place at the right time during the final laps on NASCAR’s longest track. So, if anyone is considering what to get Busch as a belated birthday gift, any help earning a second career Talladega trophy would be greatly appreciated.