Kyle Busch hasn’t quite been himself in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
As the SNICKERS ad campaign says, “You just aren’t yourself when you’re hungry.” In Busch’s case, that would mean hungry for his first Sprint Cup win on the 2-mile oval that sits approximately 90 miles southwest of Detroit.
But the talented 26-year-old, with a little help from his sponsor, is hoping he can change that this weekend and bring home the win with his No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota Camry in Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.
Busch simply isn’t himself when he’s not winning – something he’s become accustomed to throughout his NASCAR career that’s spanned just over six years. In fact, the Las Vegas native currently sits at 97 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup (21), Nationwide (48) and Truck (28). That puts Busch in some illustrious company, tied with Dale Earnhardt (76 Sprint Cup and 21 Nationwide) and Darrell Waltrip (84 Sprint Cup and 13 Nationwide) for third all-time in total wins across all three national series.
With 11 overall victories already this season among NASCAR’s top three series, Busch could climb even closer to the impressive mark of 100 overall NASCAR wins by winning the Sprint Cup and/or Nationwide Series races he’s entered this weekend at Michigan.
In order to do so on the Sprint Cup side, Busch will have to improve on a personal Michigan resume that includes zero wins or poles to his credit and just one top-five and three-top 10 finishes. Safe to say, the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver is as hungry as ever for a Sprint Cup win in the Irish Hills.
As any close observer of Busch knows, winning always satisfies his hunger and he’ll look for a little help from his SNICKERS Camry and his No. 18 JGR team to get him on the winning track Sunday at a 2-mile oval where victory has managed to elude him – thus far.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?
“It’s just a fun place to race and I’m hoping we can get our first Sprint Cup win there this weekend with our SNICKERS Camry. Its wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing is just trying to get grip there. Some guys are able to get it, other guys can’t. You can get it for maybe five laps and then you’re just out to lunch. The biggest thing is, just trying to make your car comfortable and make it last throughout a whole tire run and, of course, make it fast, too. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it. For me, coming to Michigan, I tend to run well there. For whatever reason, I haven’t had too many great finishes to show for it, but the biggest deal is trying to finish and finish up front.”
Even though you enjoy racing at Michigan, you’ve not had a great deal of success there. Are you looking forward to hopefully getting a Michigan win this time around?
“I know Denny (Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota and the winner of the June 2010 race at Michigan) is really looking forward to going back there. Myself and Dave (Rogers, crew chief), we’re going to take a new car there and try to shake down a new SNICKERS Camry and see if we can improve upon our runs there in the past. I can’t say enough about how much Denny, Mike Ford (No. 11 crew chief) and those guys helped us last weekend. Hopefully, there are several places that we can return the favor. That’s what teammates are for. But Pocono and Michigan are two places they run well at that we haven’t quite figured out, so I’m looking forward to all of us at JGR working together and having all of us end up with a good finish.”
You’ve had success at Michigan in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. What is it going to take to get a Sprint Cup win there?
“It’s really a fun racetrack. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the success I’ve wanted there in the Cup cars. Last June there was a really disappointing since we lost an engine in practice, had to start in the back, and we never really got good track position all day. I’ve been really good in the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series there in the past, but I’m still trying to get that place figured out in the Cup car. Just looking forward to this weekend, trying to go out there and run well with the Cup car and have a good, solid finish for us.”
What are your thoughts on the new qualifying procedure at Pocono and the new format, overall, with Sprint Cup qualifying on Saturday as we’ve seen at several races, already, this year?
It changes every single lap or every single fuel stop or pit stop.
“The races where we have Saturday qualifying are just different. You come in on Friday and you get the first practice, and the first practice is going to base your time for qualifying. Then, you go into the second practice, which is later in the day – about when the race is going to end. Then there’s going to be a lot of grip, probably, when the track starts cooling off just a little bit around the 4:30 or 5 o’clock timeframe. We’ll see how it pans out. You come in on Saturday and you run one lap and, as will be the case this weekend, I’ll be in the Nationwide car. I like the old schedule a lot better – just personal preference. If I had an opinion, I would say you come in and you run some race laps to get yourself acclimated to the track. Then, you switch over, you go to qualifying trim, you make some laps, and you qualify that afternoon or evening or whatever it may be. Then, the next day, you have two practice sessions solely devoted to your racecar and what you might need to work on for Sunday. To me, that’s a more productive schedule. But, with that being said, if it helps sell more tickets on either day and gets the fans more excited, I’m all for it. At the end of the day, that’s why we’re all here.”
How many cars have the potential to win each week and how many are championship contenders?
“To be honest with you, it changes every single lap or every single fuel stop or pit stop. For instance, at Kansas, I thought Carl (Edwards) was going to win the race. He drove up through green-flag conditions, took the lead and didn’t take it off pit road. And then, two runs later, I’m passing Carl and I’m running sixth and he’s eighth or ninth or something like that and I’m like, ‘I just thought this guy was going to win the race.’ Now, you’ve got somebody else out there with Jeff Gordon coming on. Then, at the end of the race, there was the fuel strategy playing out and all of the sudden Brad Keselowski is leading. It changes every lap.”