Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and his team are off to a hot start in the three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races contested thus far in 2016.
In fact, the defending Sprint Cup champions are the only ones to post three top-five finishes this season. So as the series continues its West Coast swing, they’ll move on down the road to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s Good Sam 500k in hopes of continuing their run of success.
Busch and company will head to the Valley of the Sun looking to Rock the Rainbow for the third consecutive year with the now-familiar Skittles colors that will adorn the No. 18 Toyota for the first of four races this season. The Skittles brand made its NASCAR debut in 1998 in partnership with MB2 Motorsports on the No. 36 Pontiac for driver Derrike Cope. In 1999, driver Ernie Irvan took the wheel of the Skittles No. 36 car as well. Busch brought Skittles its first victory as part of the JGR partnership as he was victorious in the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July.
Heading into this weekend’s race at the mile oval just west of Phoenix, Busch is the series points leader thanks to his three top-five finishes. He’s looking to score his first win of the season and automatically seal a birth into this year’s edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Busch has actually posted seven consecutive top-fives dating back to last season, and hopes to keep the streak alive with another top-five finish in Arizona.
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 that fall. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Sprint Cup win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where the West Coast swing will conclude next week.
In 21 Sprint Cup starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win and 13 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 three more top-10 finishes the past two seasons but sat out the first trip to Phoenix last season because of injury.
So as the Sprint Cup Series moves on to the middle race of 2016’s West Coast swing, Busch will hope that Rocking the Rainbow will be just what he needs to bring home his first victory of the season and continue his hot hand to start his championship defense.