Kyle Busch’s return to his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend could go a long way in determining his NASCAR Cup Series playoff chances when the Round of 12 kicks off Sunday.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) heads to the 1.5-mile desert oval fifth in the playoff standings, and with the unpredictable Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval set to close out the Round of 12, the Las Vegas native wants to get off to a strong start to the round with a solid finish Sunday.
Aside from NASCAR’s biggest events like the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win at the hometown racetrack is always high on the priority list for most NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Busch crossed that all-important hometown win off his list when he won in just his fifth Las Vegas Cup Series start in 2009.
The 2002 honors graduate of Durango High School in Las Vegas qualified on the pole that weekend but was forced to start at the rear of the field because his team needed to change engines during Friday practice. Unfazed, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’S team worked their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. He went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.
This weekend, he would like nothing more than to double his number of Cup Series wins at Las Vegas to go with that emotional first hometown win.
While Busch added 2016 and 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Las Vegas to go with three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in a row there from 2018 to 2020, he already was no stranger to winning on Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the facility’s “Bullring,” which existed for several years before the NASCAR oval was built. When .Busch moved up to Late Model stock cars, his winning ways continued with 10 victories at the Bullring in 2001.
Along with the familiar primary colors of M&M’S, the Henderson, Nevada-based Ethel M Chocolates brand will have its logo on the No. 18 Toyota’s decklid and front quarterpanels this weekend. The brand was primary sponsor of a car for the first time ever during the March Las Vegas race. Ethel M Chocolates is a marquis offering, manufactured by Mars Wrigley North America and dedicated to creating premium chocolates with fresh ingredients and no artificial preservatives. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Ethel M Chocolates, a momentous milestone for the brand.
So as Busch returns to Las Vegas this weekend, he hopes the he can turn a trip back home into a trip back to a victory lane. As the saying goes, “home is where the heart is.” And for Busch, home is where the trophy is, along with an automatic ticket into the Round of 8 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs.