It’s race three of the 36-race NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and Kyle Busch and new crew chief Ben Beshore are just starting to learn and grow as a new driver-crew chief pairing.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway facing the third different type of track to start the 2021 Cup Series campaign. The first race came at the mammoth 2.5-mile oval at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and then it was back to Daytona for a race on the road course last weekend.
This weekend, Busch and Beshore will tackle their first 1.5-mile oval of the season before another test on a different type of 1.5-mile oval to follow at Busch’s hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway. So the next two weeks will go a long way for the driver and crew chief pairing to learn each other and see what they are capable of on the first two intermediate tracks on the docket.
Not only has he had plenty of success of intermediate tracks, Busch has been a huge part of several Cup Series championship battles at Homestead. He was one of the final four playoff drivers each of the last five seasons the championship race as held at Homestead until it was moved to Phoenix Raceway in 2020. Busch brought home titles in 2015 and 2019 at Homestead, along with a runner-up position in 2017. His worst finish in his five-year Championship 4 run was sixth place in the 2016 race.
With two wins and four top-five finishes there over the last five seasons, Busch has become a strong contender at the variable-banked oval. But the M&M’S Fudge Brownie driver hasn’t always been as strong on his visits to Homestead, as his first seven starts there yielded just one top-10 and only one other top-20 finish. But starting with his fourth-place run there in 2012, he has reeled off five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in his last eight starts at Homestead. His most impressive races at Homestead, of course, were his 2015 and 2019 championship-winning victories. The memory of celebrating multiple titles there will always provide fond memories for the Las Vegas native.
In addition to making his 17th Homestead start, Sunday’s 400-mile race in South Florida will mark the return of the M&M’S Fudge Brownie colors to the No. 18 Toyota as the scheme ran several times during the introduction of M&M’S Fudge Brownie in stores across the country during 2020. The popular M&M’S Fudge Brownie gives that home-baked brownie taste without the hassle of baking.
So, as Busch heads to Homestead on Sunday afternoon, the M&M’S Fudge Brownie driver won’t have the championship pressure to contend with, but that doesn’t mean he won’t aim to bring home his third Cup Series win at a place that has provided many great memories, while the relationship between Busch and crew chief Beshore and the many changes to the No. 18 team continue to “bake” this early part of the season.