Saturday, May 28

Kyle Busch Three In A Row at Pocono?

Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, is nicknamed “Tricky Triangle” for a reason. The only three-turn track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit presents drivers and crew chiefs with the most unique setup challenges in their efforts to get their racecars to make it around the 2.5-mile circuit quickly and efficiently.


For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the Tricky Triangle has been much less tricky of late with three victories in the last four Cup Series races there, including the most recent two – last August and this past June.


As the 2015 Cup Series champion heads into Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 NASCAR Cup Series race, he’s hoping the return of the Skittles scheme will be just what he needs to help him earn a sweep of the 2019 Pocono events and make it three wins in a row there. It would make Busch just the third driver to win three races in a row at Pocono – the other two being Bobby Allison in 1982 and 1983, Tim Richmond in 1986 and 1987.


In addition to getting his third consecutive Pocono win, Busch is also looking to become only the eighth driver since NASCAR began racing in the Pocono Mountains in 1974 to sweep both races at Pocono in a season, joining Bill Elliott in 1985, Bobby Labonte in 1999, Jimmie Johnson in 2004, Denny Hamlin in 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in 2014, and Allison and Richmond.


Busch’s fortunes have recently made a turn for the better at the 2.5-mile Pocono oval. After narrowly missing a victory in June 2017, Busch returned in late July looking for his first Cup Series win there. He bring home his first career Pocono Cup Series win behind some clever strategy by crew chief Adam Stevens, as well as his own smart driving. While the top competitors headed to pit road for their final scheduled  fuel-and-tire stops late in the race, Stevens elected to leave Busch out longer than the rest. The others were clearly faster on newer tires, but Busch took advantage of a clean track to make up time and, when he was finally called to pit road, he had much fresher tires than his fellow competitors for the closing stages of the race. He eventually drove by Kevin Harvick for an impressive first Pocono victory.


Busch will find plenty of encouragement this week during his usual pre-Pocono visit to Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. headquarters in Hackettstown, New Jersey. There, the Skittles driver will have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Mars Wrigley associates, many of whom will make the one-hour drive to Pocono Sunday to cheer for Busch and his Skittles Toyota.


In addition to the good fortune at Pocono, the Skittles brand has been red hot in recent years when it’s adorned Busch’s No. 18 Toyota, with wins so far this season at ISM Raceway near Phoenix and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in the familiar Skittles colors, and six wins in all since 2015 with Skittles on board.


So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire Skittles team will aim for three in-a-row at Pocono as teams head toward the end of summer and into the homestretch of NASCAR’s regular season.



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