Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), wheeled the colorful red scheme to an impressive run in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s longest race.
Busch ran in the top-10 at Charlotte for a majority of his first points-paying Sprint Cup race of the season, moving into the top-five for much of the final 150 laps. If not for a late-race jumble in the finishing order because several others gambled on fuel strategy, a top-five finish would have been entirely possible. Still, an 11th-place finish was quite impressive in the grueling 600-mile marathon, especially considering Busch had been sidelined since Feb. 21 after breaking his right leg and left foot during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
At the conclusion of the demanding 600-miler, Busch was even surprised at how good he felt. However, the next challenge is never far away, and Busch looks to keep the strong return going at Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover. While 400 miles may seem like a much lighter workload after Charlotte, Dover actually can be much more taxing on driver and equipment with its abrasive concrete surface and high banking.
With the FedEx 400 being only Busch’s second points-paying start of the season, he is embarking on his own unique chase to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. The Las Vegas native has been given an exemption to make the 2015 Chase field, but he has plenty of work to do over the next 14 races in order to make NASCAR’s playoffs. Along with winning a race, Busch must rally to make it within the top-30 in driver points. The Coca-Cola 600 was a good start as he now has 33 points, sitting 169 markers behind 30-place Tony Stewart after just one race.
As for this weekend, the Dover stats for Busch and his Skittles team are impressive – two Sprint Cup wins to go with nine top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 20 career Sprint Cup starts on the Delmarva Peninsula. He’s also led an impressive 1,011 laps there.
Like at Charlotte, race fans will get to “Taste the Rainbow” for the second consecutive Sprint Cup event with Busch at the controls at Dover. Busch, who counts Green Apple Skittles among his personal favorite, will also race the No. 18 Skittles Toyota in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, finally, in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.So with the return of the driver they call “Rowdy,” will the reappearance of the rainbow this weekend culminate in a return to victory lane for Busch and Skittles? With his record at the concrete mile oval, Busch has shown that anything is possible.