As Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry team shipped off from Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) Huntersville, N.C., race shop to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, the only thing truly known is that there are plenty of unknowns.
That’s because the Sprint Cup series is introducing its highly anticipated sixth-generation (Gen-6) racecar during the annual kickoff to the season at Daytona. Despite the unknowns teams face with a new car, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers can only hope to come out of the gate like Busch did with the previous-generation Sprint Cup car in 2008. That was Busch’s first season with JGR and it was one that would serve as the breakout year many expected from Busch after three full Sprint Cup seasons at rival Hendrick Motorsports. That year, Busch wheeled his No. 18 Toyota Camry to eight Sprint Cup wins, 17 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s, and made new partner M&M’s Brand Chocolate Candies a regular visitor to victory lane.
More encouraging news for Busch and Company: despite the disappointment of missing last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the M&M’s team showed over the course of the last 10 Chase races it will be a force to be reckoned with in 2013. During those 10 races, Busch posted seven top-fives, eight top-10s, and led a whopping 864 laps to finish off the season as strong as he ever has in his eight previous Sprint Cup campaigns.
The 2013 Sprint Cup season warms up with Saturday night’s non-points-paying Sprint Unlimited, where Busch is the defending race winner, continues through next week’s Gatorade Duels, and begins in earnest Feb. 26 with the 55th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
So while Busch and the M&M’s team know there are many unknowns with the Gen-6 racecar, he’s hoping to take a page out of his playbook from the beginning of 2008, coupled with the momentum of his last 10 races of 2012 in hopes of bringing home his first Daytona 500 win and the Harley J. Earl Trophy.