There’s just no place like home for Las Vegas native Kyle Busch. But, there is a close second.
While Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), relishes each chance to visit his desert hometown, there’s yet another desert destination that ranks as next-best for Busch.
Where might that be? Of course, it’s Phoenix International Raceway, site of Sunday’s penultimate stop on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign, the Advocare 500k.
Located just 300 miles to the south and east of his hometown of Las Vegas, the likewise desert setting of Phoenix has been a favorite place to wheel a racecar long before Busch 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 enough, his first Sprint Cup win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
In 15 Sprint Cup starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win and nine 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 was in position to win both Sprint Cup races at Phoenix in 2010, as well as the February 2011 event, but things never fell his way.
Add four victories, six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and three poles in Busch’s 13 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts, and a pair of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in the fall 2007 and spring 2011 events, and it’s no wonder Busch relishes every opportunity to compete at his desert home away from home. With numbers like that, who wouldn’t?
Even better news for Busch and his M&M’s team this weekend is the hot streak they are riding into the Arizona desert. Despite not being a Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship competitor, Busch and his M&M’s team have been quite impressive in the eight Chase races thus far as he has accrued 274 points – fifth-most points among all series drivers. In the last eight races, Busch has scored five top-five finishes and six top-10s, and he’ll hope to continue the hot streak out West.
Just two races remain on the Sprint Cup calendar for 2012. And Busch sees Sunday’s 500-kilometer run at his home away from home as his first of two chances to finish off the season in victory lane and, more importantly, carry the strong momentum built over the past eight races to a bonafide championship-contending effort in 2013.