HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 6, 2012) – Each year, millions of people travel to Las Vegas in hopes of finding Lady Luck.
Las Vegas native Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Ms. Brown Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), hopes the latest addition to the M&M’s family of characters – Ms. Brown – will be his Lady Luck as she’ll accompany him in his quest for another hometown win during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The good news for Busch as he returns for Sunday’s 267-lap event around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas tri-oval is that he’s already tasted victory there as the 2009 Sprint Cup winner. Thus, he and the No. 18 M&M’s Ms. Brown team know first-hand the kind of luck, coupled with the abundance of hard work, that they’ll need to play in order to come up with a winning hand once again come Sunday.
And that 2009 victory was a monumental one for Busch and the No. 18 team, to say the least.
The 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas’ Durango High School qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field because the team needed to change engines during Friday practice. Nonetheless, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’s team were able to work their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. And Busch went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.
As special as that 2009 Sprint Cup win was, the talented 26-year-old was already no stranger to winning on the grounds of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. From 1999 to 2001, Busch earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the facility’s “Bullring,” which existed for several years before the 1.5-mile oval was built. Busch eventually moved up to Late Model Stock cars and his winning ways continued as he captured 10 victories in Late Model competition at the Bullring in 2001.
With the memories of that 2009 Sprint Cup win still relatively fresh on his mind, Busch has the added incentive of Ms. Brown taking center stage this weekend on his No. 18 racing machine just as she did two weekends ago at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Considering M&M’s “Chief Chocolate Officer” will move from the spotlight to her new position on Busch’s racecar alongside her fellow M&M’s characters after this weekend, he would love nothing more than to give Ms. Brown the ride of her young life, culminating in victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Ms. Brown Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is there more pressure racing at your hometown track?
“Yeah, Vegas is always a little bit more pressure – more pressure on myself, just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there. Thankfully, I have won there and I’ve knocked that one off the list, but certainly you want to win there every year. It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most, but I love Vegas – the atmosphere and everything going on around that place. It’s been sold out for a lot of years, I think ever since it started. They’ve added more grandstands, which is cool. It’s a big race.”
What was it like to bring home a Sprint Cup 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 the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen. I’m hoping we can do it again this weekend with the M&M’s Ms. Brown scheme along for the ride with us.”
Where does that 2009 win rank among your career wins?
“It was the biggest at the time, but the triple at Bristol ranks up there now, too, along with winning the Inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky last year. It was awesome in 2009, though – just the feeling of a lifetime. I told everyone 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. Besides that, there are the different appearances we do for M&M’s. You get to go to some of the restaurants that you liked there growing up, 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.”