In most team sports, having home-field advantage can make a difference in the outcome of a game, and that typically occurs for at least half of each season in most sports. In NASCAR, however, while most competitors race at venues near their hometowns at one time or another, a driver will have usually no more than two “home games” each 36-race season.
Not so for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) at Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The Las Vegas native feels very much at home all up and down the western part of the country, where the series races no less than five times each year from Phoenix to Sonoma.
While he’ll be enjoying a home game of sorts this weekend, Busch is also hitting the road – namely the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma, for Sunday’s 350-kilometer challenge of both right turns and lefts.
Before 2008, nobody even thought to mention Busch as a threat to win either of Sprint Cup’s annual road-course events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. But that all changed shortly after his arrival at JGR at the start of 2008 as Busch dominated the road-course scene that year, leading 130 of a total of 202 road-course laps and capturing victories at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Similar to NASCAR regulars like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon who are known to be strong on the road courses, Busch quickly established himself five seasons ago as a routine road-course contender and has been in the hunt on road courses ever since. Most recently, Busch qualified second in August at Watkins Glen, and then led a race-high 43 laps before losing the lead on the last lap after hitting an oil slick and subsequent contact with Brad Keselowski.
Busch hopes to continue the run of consistent and strong finishes he’s gathered over the last three weeks, during which two top-five and three consecutive top-10 finishes have vaulted him to sixth in the series standings after sitting 11th prior to the event Dover (Del.) International Speedway’s “Monster Mile” three weeks ago.
So, as the Sprint Cup Series heads to its annual stop in Northern California’s Wine Country, everyone knows Busch is capable of winning anywhere in his comfortable surroundings of his “home” out West, just like he did at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009. They also know he’s always a threat to win on the “road” courses, as he is this weekend at Sonoma.