HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 11, 2013) – During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan – located near U.S. 12, approximately halfway between Detroit and Chicago – was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.
At the turn of the century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet.
For the last several decades, the Irish Hills come to life two weekends per year and become anything but peaceful and quiet when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the state’s largest sporting events.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), hopes his upcoming stopover in the Irish Hills brings a little bit of good fortune his way during the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday.
Busch hopes he can turn yet another solid run into yet another strong finish and continue his climb in the standings. With just two top-10 finishes at Michigan over his first 14 starts there, Busch broke through with his first Sprint Cup win there in August 2011, edging five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in a late-race shootout.
So as Busch and the M&M’s team head to the Midwest this weekend, they’ll hope to luck of the Irish is on their side on their road for a second Sprint Cup victory of the season Sunday afternoon in the Irish Hills of Michigan.
Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that? “Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing, and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But with the new surface, there is a ton of grip now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps, and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now the tire wear is all out the window, and the racetrack is very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it.”
You won the last race before the track was resurfaced. Are you expecting the track to change a bit from the first two races on the new surface there? “I’m hoping it’s aged a bit and widened out a little bit more. We struggled on the repaved tracks last season, but we were much improved at Pocono last weekend than we were there last year, so that gives me hope that we can do the same at Michigan this week. We just have to keep working hard and chip away at it like last week. I’m hoping we can learn enough in practice that we can have a good run there this weekend. One of the biggest things on repaved tracks is track position. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the M&M’s guys have worked really hard on our qualifying setup, and it’s really showing this year. I think our worst qualifying effort is 13th, and that was at a (restrictor) plate track. We’ve been qualifying even better on the intermediate tracks. We’ve got a pole on one of those tracks and haven’t qualified worse than eighth. It will have to start with a good qualifying effort and see what we can learn in practice Saturday.”
Your 2013 Toyota Camry and the new “Gen-6” car have been really fast each week. Do you expect more of the same at Michigan? “I expect it to be fast. With a new surface, there’s always a lot of grip. We’ve set several track records this year with the new car, and I know we’ll be fast at Michigan this weekend, too. But if you are just a little bit loose there, now you are nervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck. It was really intense last year in our tests and in the races there. You are hauling there now, for sure, with a combination of the second year on a new surface and the new car. I don’t expect that to change much.”
I expect it to be fast.
Can you win the championship this season? “It’s real early to be talking championship, but certainly I will give a lot of credit where its due and that’s to the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing – all the guys and gals who have worked so hard at giving us some really great racecars – and I think it’s proven. We’ve moved up the standings here the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, Denny (Hamlin) was out for a few weeks so he hasn’t gotten a full taste of it all, but he’s had some great runs since he came back at Darlington. (Matt) Kenseth has obviously been great for us, and that’s why we all talked last season about what we needed and what we were looking for in another driver, and we knew Kenseth had it. It’s not that he was missing anything over there at Roush, but it just seems like everything is in a lot better place right now. He’s got a fresh start, so it looks a lot reminiscent of my 2008 season from leaving Hendrick for Matt – more than this season looks like 2008 for me, I believe.”