Over the last seven seasons, Kyle Busch has been in the mix for a win at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City more times than not.
This wasn’t always the case, though, for Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), as he struggled his first seven seasons competing at the 1.5-mile oval. Busch will hope to record another strong finish at Kansas, a place where he struggled mightily during his first 14 visits, albeit on two completely different racing surfaces. However, looking at his past 13 starts in the Heartland of America, Busch has scored eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s, an astounding turnaround from his early years there.
The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will be looking for his first win of the season and continue his recent string of strong runs at Kansas in Sunday’s 400-mile race. Busch will also have a bit of an added incentive on Sunday as he will be celebrating his 36th birthday. As a matter of fact, Busch became just the second driver to win a Cup Series race on his birthday when he found himself in victory lane at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in 2009. Three drivers total have accomplished the feat as Cale Yarborough won on his birthday in 1977 and 1983 and Matt Kenseth won on his birthday in 2012. Busch hopes to tie Yarborough as the only driver with two birthday victories.
The Kansas oval was built in 2001 and originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns. But it underwent a massive renovation leading into its October 2012 event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, he had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time, for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.
Feeling snakebit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked Kansas with the hopes that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result and effort was much different than the three previous trips. Instead, they were competitive enough to turn the corner in terms of results.
In the October 2014 Cup Series race, Busch brought home a third-place finish at Kansas. Those who know Busch knows he has never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum kickstarted by his first Kansas top-five has remained to this day. Finally, with the surface starting to wear, Kansas has become a place much more agreeable to Busch’s driving style as he brought home his first victory there in NASCAR’s top series in May 2016, putting an exclamation point on the aforementioned strong runs there and igniting a slew of top-five and top-10 finishes there ever since.
Busch will debut the M&M’S MIX scheme as the latest addition to the M&M’S lineup this weekend. M&M’S MIX combines three different flavors of M&M’S in one bag. There are two different types: Classic Mix, which features Milk Chocolate, Peanut and Peanut Butter, and the Peanut MIX, which combines Milk Chocolate Peanut, Dark Chocolate Peanut and White Chocolate Peanut. Race fans can pick up M&M’S MIX at local retailers and check out the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Camry in Kansas.
So as Busch heads to Kansas this weekend, there’s no doubt he’ll be in the “MIX”, as he aims not only for his second Kansas win, but to add a second victory on his May 2 birthday during his impressive career.