Tuesday, May 24

Kyle Busch Bringing Home the Hardware

As the points-paying portion of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is set to begin with Speedweek activities starting Tuesday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Kyle Busch has once again turned his attention to filling the space set aside in his trophy case for the one big race he’s yet to win.

 

Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping to check the box of Daytona 500 champion by finally securing the Harley J. Earl Trophy that goes annually to the winner of The Great American Race. Sunday will mark his 17th career Daytona 500 start.

 

A win in the traditional points-paying season-opener would be one of the most noteworthy accomplishments on Busch’s already impressive resume. The hardware celebrating the important race wins and accomplishments already checked off his list are housed in a large trophy case at his Kyle Busch Motorsports race shop. The list starts with his two Cup Series championships in 2015 and 2019, along with his wins in crown jewel races, starting with the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008 and back-to-back Brickyard 400s at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016, along with his first points-paying Cup Series win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in 2018, preceded by his first All-Star Race victory at Charlotte in 2017. While Busch will also have his sights set on adding wins at the new venues that have been added to the schedule, the Daytona 500 trophy still remains at the top of his list.

 

The Las Vegas native begins the pursuit of his first Daytona 500 win and third championship sporting the familiar yellow M&M’S scheme on his No. 18 Toyota. The M&M’S brand will be returning to Busch’s car for its 15th and final season in 2022, along with other Mars Wrigley products highlighted on the car throughout the year, which include a mix of new and familiar products from the SNICKERS, SKITTLES and PEDIGREE brands.

 

While the Daytona 500 will serve as the points-paying debut of the NASCAR NextGen racecar, the season kicked off early and unlike ever before with the first-ever Cup Series race Feb. 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For his part, Busch made a strong showing in the first on-track activities with the new car as he was fast qualifier, won his heat race, then led a race-high 64 laps but came up just short of a win with a runner-up finish in the Busch Light Clash. The M&M’S driver will look to finish one spot higher in the official debut for the car at Daytona.

 

The M&M’S Toyota will be on track for Daytona Speedweek starting with practice on Tuesday. It will continue with single-lap qualifying Wednesday night, then Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races. Busch won his Duel qualifying race in 2009, 2013 and 2016. And the official NASCAR Cup Series season begins in earnest with the Sunday’s Daytona 500 for Busch, who in addition to his three non-points race wins at Daytona, captured his first and only points-paying Cup Series win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July 2008.

 

So, as Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Camry head back to Daytona for the latest edition of Daytona Speedweek, his sights will be set on winning The Great American Race and hoping to become the 41st driver to grace the Harley J. Earl Trophy as Daytona 500 champion.

 

 

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

 

You are still going after that first Daytona 500 trophy. Is this the year you are able to get to Daytona 500 victory lane?

 

“I don’t know if this this is the year or not, but we’ll all have to find out together. It’s been a long time, obviously. I’ve been doing it for quite a while. It’s the last trophy to check off the box. I’ve certainly been close a few times and have been way far away at other times. I feel like the superspeedway thing has not been my knack over the last few years for whatever reason. I’ve been trying to learn on it and watch film and getting better at it in those situations. We had a fast car last year and we had a fast car for all the speedway races. We were up front and leading last year’s race with 15 or so laps to go and had an engine let go. It’s a mix of a lot of luck and some skill, as well. You can be leading going down the backstretch and have someone drill you from behind and crash you, so it’s never over till it’s over and you can get to the finish line and finally put our M&M’S Camry in victory lane there. Our friends at M&M’S have also been trying for years and I’m also hoping we can get it done for them, as well as for myself.”  

 

What do you anticipate it being like to get your feet under you with the new car?

 

“I think the biggest thing with getting familiar with the new car is just understanding it’s little things that it likes and it doesn’t like, whether it’s setup-wise or even driving-wise. Just how far can you push the limit of the new car? Where are the breaks going to let you go into a corner, or how much grip is the bigger, wider tire going to have? How long does that grip hang on for and when does it fall off? You have to see if it was more or less than before. So, all of those things, there are so many more things to learn. The car being heavier and the driving dynamics of the car and the differential is all way different than anything we’ve ever seen.”

 

What were your first impressions of the new car when you tested at Charlotte for the first time in December?

 

“My first test was at Charlotte and it was OK. There was some learning to get through. We heard some of the challenges they had before and we were able to see those and fine tune on them while we were at the test, and go through and fix some of those issues that some of the other guys were having in the earlier tests. So that was nice, that we were able to contribute and find some fixes for some of the things some of the other guys had been battling.”

 

What are your expectations with the new car at the season’s biggest race, the Daytona 500?

 

“I think you just have to go out there and race with this new car being at Daytona for the first time. You get a chance to practice and a chance to run it in the Duel races, so you get to get your feet wet a bit to understand how it does in the draft. Until you get in a pack of 40, cars you really aren’t going to have a whole understanding of what it takes and what its limitations are. I think you are going to be learning that as you go and it’s going to be never-ending.”

 

What are your expectations for Daytona and the first portion of the season?

 

“I think it’s really important to get a solid foundation. I’ve always kind of focused on that. Ideally you would like to have a good Daytona and a good West Coast swing and kind of see where you’re at and what kind of season you are having and where your team is. That’s always been my goal, but it hasn’t always worked out that way. I’ve blown up or crashed or had other issues at Daytona that set you back, and then you are continually trying to climb yourself back up the ladder. It would be nice to have a solid and painless Speedweek, then going into the West Coast swing and swing for the fences and have a great start to the season.”

 

What would winning the Daytona 500 mean to you?

 

“Winning the Daytona 500 would be huge. It’s essentially the last trophy on my checklist that I really need. I also want to win COTA (Circuit of the Americas), Nashville, and all the new tracks, as well, but the Daytona 500 is one that has eluded me, and many others for that matter. I would certainly like to think I could get that race checked off my list before it’s all said and done, and to also be known as a Daytona 500 champion in addition to my championships and other race wins.”

 

Why is the Daytona 500 so difficult to win?

 

“Because everybody else wants to win it and it’s on all their bucket lists and, of course, it’s a race that 40 people have a chance to go out there and win. I wouldn’t say the same for a race like Vegas. You go to Vegas and obviously that’s a race where probably 10, 12 guys are going to have a chance to win but, when you show up to Daytona, all 40 people will believe they have a chance to win.”

 

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