Victory 'Squared' at Las Vegas?
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 1, 2011) -- In auto racing, many call the area where the race winner celebrates 'Victory Circle.' But Las Vegas native Kyle Busch is hoping -- for a number of reasons -- he can refer to it as 'Victory Squared' following Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 18 SNICKERS Peanut Butter Squared Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas' Durango High School would like to double his number of Sprint Cup wins at the 1.5-mile oval after he brought home an emotional first win there in 2009.
While Busch qualified on the pole for his memorable 2009 win, he was forced to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change during Friday practice. Nonetheless, he showed plenty of patience as he and the No. 18 team were able to work their way to the front of the field by lap 54. Busch went on to lead three times for 51 laps and claimed what he called, at that time, the biggest win of his young career.
Busch will return to Las Vegas with a little help from a new product launch and a sleek paint scheme from sponsor SNICKERS and its new SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Squared. The new product from SNICKERS retains all the ingredients people love about SNICKERS, like peanuts, caramel, nougat and milk chocolate, and pairs them with delicious peanut butter.
So far, just two races into the 2011 season, another successful pairing can be found atop the Sprint Cup Series standings as Busch leads the standings by three markers over his older brother Kurt Busch. It marks the first time since February 1988 that family members occupy the top two spots in the standings. Following the 1988 Daytona 500, Bobby Allison had the top spot while his son, the late Davey Allison, was second.
Additionally, Kyle and Kurt Busch are the only two drivers who have recorded top-10 finishes in both races thus far this season, with Kyle finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and second again last week at Phoenix International Raceway.
So will younger brother Kyle leave Las Vegas continuing to lead the standings with another win under his belt there, or will older brother Kurt wrestle the top spot away?
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What was it like to bring home a win in your hometown in 2009?
"It was cool. To go out there and to run a smooth race, and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that's what it's all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn't anything but a gleam in Richie Clyne's (Founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) eye -- all those guys who made that place happen. I'm hoping we can do it again this weekend with SNICKERS and their Peanut Butter Squared along with us."
Where does that 2009 win rank among your career wins?
"It was the biggest at the time, but the triple at Bristol last year ranks up there now, too. It was awesome, just the feeling of a lifetime. I told everyone that it would be just like another race, but it really meant a lot more than that when I got to victory lane. To have my mom there, and my brother come to victory lane, just made it that much more special. We didn't have the best car in 2009, but I feel like I drove a smart race, anyway, and did what we needed to do. We worked on it all day and kept making it better."
Having grown up in Las Vegas, do you still have a lot of friends in the area? Do you get a lot of ticket requests from friends and family?
"I get a lot of ticket requests for California, Vegas and Phoenix -- all the West Coast stops that we run. It's kind of hard to fulfill all of them, but we try when we can. We get to go to M&M's World on the (Las Vegas) Strip to sign some autographs on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of the hometown fans there, as well."
Are you able to enjoy trips to your hometown?
"It's fine going back there. There's really not much family out there, it's just family friends. There are a lot of friends you get to see and catch up with that you text back and forth or talk back-and-forth with during the year, but you never get to see them, so that's always cool to go out there to the race and stuff. Besides that, there's the different appearances we do for M&M's. You get to go to some of the restaurants that you liked there growing up and stuff, so that's always cool. It's just another weekend, but I particularly know my way around this city better than I do any other place."
What is your fondest racing memory of growing up in Las Vegas?
"My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that was definitely a great memory to have."
With the new points system, is it early enough in the season where bad finishes hurt you more than in the past?
"It's definitely early enough in the year and, through the models that NASCAR said that they did and everything, it's still relative. It's definitely different, but it's still relative. I think it's a little bit easier to kind of figure out where you need to be if you're 20 points behind a guy -- that's 20 spots -- besides leading a lap and or leading the most laps or winning, and stuff like that. So, you can close the gap up faster by being able to do those things. To me, right now in the season, the points don't mean anything even though it's nice to start off the season with two good finishes and be leading the points. You'll start worrying about points probably Charlotte time. That's when you need to start structuring where you're at and where you want to be when it comes down to Richmond."
After a successful weekend at Phoenix in all three series, do you feel like you learn a lot on Fridays and Saturdays to help you on Sundays?
"For me, its experience on the racetrack. You're able to go out there and you're able to spend the time on that Goodyear tire for that particular racetrack for that particular week, whether it's a day race or a night race. You get all that experience in. That's what I like to do. I learn so many things during the race that I can correlate to my Nationwide car or my Cup car. I like to be able to give that information to Dave (Rogers, Sprint Cup crew chief). Another thing, too, is when I'm working with Eric Philips (Camping World Truck Series crew chief) and with Jason Ratcliff (Nationwide Series crew chief), they have way different mindsets and thoughts and processes of how to make a vehicle go better and faster that Dave Rogers might not have. I can take all that information that I learned all the way back and forth across all three and try to increase the level of competition in all of those. My encyclopedia fills up quick."