As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads for the sixth race run in NASCAR’s top series at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, there’s some good news and bad news for two-time and defending Kentucky race winner Kyle Busch.
The good news? Busch won two of the first five races at the 1.5-mile oval, including the inaugural Sprint Cup race in 2011 and, most recently, last July. The bad news? The heavily worn racing surface and Kentucky layout Busch navigated to win last year’s race is gone and replaced by not only a newly repaved surface, but also a slight reconfiguration of turns one and two.
Even with those major changes facing him at Kentucky this weekend, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is still optimistic about his chances at one of his best tracks statistically during Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. Busch got off to a bit of a head start last month as his was one of the teams taking part in a two-day tire test on the new surface.
As noted earlier, the Las Vegas native has quite the record at the racetrack that sits some 65 miles north and east of Louisville’s Churchill Downs, a legendary racing facility known for horsepower of an altogether different variety. Busch has notched victories at Kentucky Speedway in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. Add his 2003 ARCA series win at Kentucky and Busch has been victorious in four racing divisions and has made quite a Kentucky home of his own in the state’s second-most-famous victory lane.
In the inaugural Sprint Cup event at Kentucky in 2011, Busch proved his worth when he led six times for a race-high 125 laps to be the historic first winner in NASCAR’s top series in the state. He enters Saturday night’s race with a series-best average finish at Kentucky of 3.8. He also leads the series in several statistical categories after the five races contested there thus far in NASCAR’s top division, during which he netted four top-five finishes and five top-10 finishes.
Busch’s winning history at Kentucky started way back at the ripe age of 18, when he dominated the 2003 ARCA race while competing for Hendrick Motorsports. He led a race-high 91 laps en route to the victory.
He returned to the Bluegrass State the following year and found victory lane again, this time in his Xfinity Series debut at the 1.5-mile oval. In all, Busch has one win, six top-fives, and has led 511 laps in seven Xfinity Series starts there. He also won the 2011 and 2014 Truck Series races to give him five top-10 finishes and 310 laps led in five Truck Series starts at the speedway.
So as the Sprint Cup Series makes just its sixth appearance at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night, even despite the fact that he and the M&M’S team may have to start over at least to some degree with the unknown of the new surface, Busch has proven he’s a quick learner as he goes for yet another win in the Bluegrass State.