KYLE BUSCH WILL IT BE TRICK, OR TREAT, AT TALLADEGA? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 26, 2010) - It might be quite appropriate that Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy Juice 500 falls on Halloween. Just about every race ever run at the mammoth...
WILL IT BE TRICK, OR TREAT, AT TALLADEGA?
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 26, 2010) - It might be quite appropriate that Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy Juice 500 falls on Halloween. Just about every race ever run at the mammoth Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway has had its share of tricks and treats, depending on who you asked after the checkered flag was waved.
At 2.66-miles in length, Talladega is the longest track on the schedule and can be full of surprises, given its restrictor-plate style of racing, which bunches together the 43-car field three- and four-wide for the lion's share of 188 hair-razing laps. While it's certainly a fan favorite, the close style of racing also facilitates the inevitable multi-car crash. And if you can dodge the multi-car accident, you feel like you've been given a treat. But if you are so unlucky as to get caught up in one of those accidents, then it ends up feeling like a mean trick.
So it's also fitting that Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will sport a special paint scheme on his racecar this weekend that showcases M&M's Halloween Fun Packs during Halloween weekend at Talladega.
Busch knows that, at one moment, he can be leading the field and then, just one lap later, find himself in 30th after falling out of the draft. Or, even worse, being involved in one of those aforementioned multi-car accidents, in which you have nowhere to go to avoid it.
He's already conquered Talladega in 11 career Sprint Cup starts with a victory in April 2008. But with only three other top-15 finishes and three Talladega outings ending in an accident for Busch, he knows all too well there's no such thing as a sure thing in restrictor-plate racing.
And to top it all off, with the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship wrapping up just three races later, Talladega is a huge wildcard in determining who enters the home stretch with a true shot at the title. Busch currently sits in fourth-place in the standings and appears to have an insurmountable 172-point deficit to points-leader Jimmie Johnson. But everyone knows that one multi-car wreck involving any or all of the three drivers ahead of him in the standings - Johnson, JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, and/or Kevin Harvick - could totally change the complexion of the points race as it moves on to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth next week.
So, will Halloween turn out to be a trick, or a treat, for Busch on Sunday? Even this Las Vegas native knows that your fortunes could change at Talladega quicker than a roll of the dice.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What is the best-case scenario at Talladega with five laps to go?
"You just want to be leading and protect what you've got and try to keep the rest of the guys behind you. You know it's going to be tough. You know it's going to be crazy and guys are going to try to go three-wide, four-wide and everywhere trying to get a push-draft going and everything. If you were leading and you had a teammate behind you or something like that, obviously that would make it pretty good."
Who is your favorite drafting partner at Talladega?
"I don't know. I've drafted well with a lot of people over the past, but I would say (Juan Pablo) Montoya helped me win the race that I won at Talladega a couple of years ago. Jimmie (Johnson) is always pretty good to draft with. My brother (Kurt Busch), as well, but many more than that. It just all depends on which other cars end up working well with your car."
What is the key to pulling off a victory at Talladega?
"The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble with our M&M's Camry. You pretty much stay around the bottom, since there is a lot of grip there, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it's hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that's when it starts to get crazy."
Does being a former race winner at Talladega offer you any sort of advantage over the competition?
"It doesn't matter at all. It's such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what's going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from."
Your racecar is sporting the special M&M's Halloween paint scheme again this week. What was your favorite Halloween costume that you wore as a kid?
"Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year, I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was kid."
Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and trick-or-treating?
"It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone's house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn't be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home."
What was your favorite kind of candy?
"Mainly, everyone always had the fun packs. Back then, which wasn't that long ago, the fun size pack of M&M's was always really popular, and I'm sure that hasn't changed too much, even now."