HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 4, 2013) – As a winner of 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races thus far in his young career, Kyle Busch certainly knows how to throw a party, particularly in victory lane.
One track where he hasn’t celebrated as a Sprint Cup winner with confetti, champagne and, of course, milk chocolate M&M’s is Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the site of Sunday’s appropriately named Party in the Poconos 400. This weekend, Busch looks to make the Party in the Poconos “Better with M,” calling upon his sponsor M&M’s latest integrated marketing campaign, which showcases how M&M’S irresistible chocolate makes moments more fun and delicious.
Busch makes it no secret that Pocono has given him fits over the years as he has five top-10 finishes in 16 previous starts there, along with eight finishes of 22nd or worse. But, three of his top-five finishes have come during his last six outings at the 2.5-mile triangle, and some of his best finishes have come since he joined JGR at the start of the 2008 season.
The Las Vegas native is coming off a solid fourth-place effort last weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, a finish that helped him jump up two spots to ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. Pocono often signifies the start of the summer stretch for teams solidifying their spot in the standings as the cutoff for the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship comes just 13 races from now.
While Busch is currently in position for a Chase berth, he knows that a solid summer stretch, along with adding to his two wins already this season, will be exactly what it takes to return to NASCAR’s all-important postseason.
So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains for Sunday’s Party in the Poconos 400, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire M&M’s team will hope they can find a new place to party – victory lane at Pocono, which is “Better with M,” as in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on the shorter distance at Pocono?
“I think that’s a positive change. You know, certainly sometimes I felt like it may be a bit long there or drawn out. Now it might add less of a lull during the middle part of the race. So, you’ll have the beginning and people trying to make moves and get themselves in position. Then you’ll have guys working it and getting themselves in position for the final pit stop and the final run, thereafter. Hopefully, we’ll finally get that win at Pocono with our M&M’s Camry.”
Until the last three seasons, Pocono seemed to be a place you struggled. What changed there to help you be in contention for wins, of late?
“Pocono used to be a place I didn’t look forward to going to but, lately, I’ve been looking forward to it because of Dave Rogers (crew chief). I struggled there and Dave does a really good job of working with our teammates. With Denny (Hamlin) being so good there, we used some of the baseline stuff from the 11 car and tweaked it more to my liking. Denny is still way better than I am there, but Dave, along with everyone on the M&M’s team and JGR, have done a good job of giving me solid racecars and it’s given me more confidence there. We really didn’t get to race the full distance either time there because of mechanical issues, so I’m hoping to get a full race in and see what we are capable of in the second year with this surface.”
How did you like the job they did repaving the track at Pocono?
“The pavement job was great. They did a really nice job. They took out a lot of bumps. There are still a few little bumps in it, which is fine. It’s only going to get worse over time, which is fine. It gives the track character.”
Did the repaving of the track at Pocono improve the racing last year?
“I thought the racing there was kind of the same, not much different. It was a little bit harder to pass because it seems like, when you’re out front in clean air, you have so much more of an advantage than being back in traffic than what it used to be – slightly, not much. To me, it was always a hard, tricky place, but it’s actually finally started becoming a two-lane racetrack in turn three. You could run the bottom and you could run the top with what we call ‘the grip strip.’ Now, it’s all grip, so it’s all back to the bottom again and you can’t really make much time up on the outside anymore.”
Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What’s the most difficult part of the track for you?
“The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest. Turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8- to 10-mph slower than the guy on your outside, and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”