Atlanta II: Kyle Busch preview

KYLE BUSCH Trick or Treat? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 22, 2008) -- Like millions of other American kids do on Oct. 31, Kyle Busch donned costumes as a child each Halloween when he was growing up in Las Vegas, roaming the neighborhood in search of...

Trick or Treat?

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 22, 2008) -- Like millions of other American kids do on Oct. 31, Kyle Busch donned costumes as a child each Halloween when he was growing up in Las Vegas, roaming the neighborhood in search of his favorite candy.

This weekend, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will zip up his real-life costume in hopes that 42 other trick-or-treaters end up chasing him around the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway oval in Hampton, Ga., in search of victory in Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

While this weekend's special paint scheme on the No. 18 Toyota showcases M&M's Halloween fun packs, the talented 23-year old will hope to duplicate the treat he brought his JGR team in March at Atlanta, when he led eight times for a race-high 173 of 325 laps en route to victory. It marked the first time JGR's original team had visited victory lane since former JGR driver Bobby Labonte brought the No. 18 car home a winner in the 2003 season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since last March, Busch has driven to seven more Sprint Cup wins and came into the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup first in the standings. The No. 18 team quickly exceeded all expectations despite starting the season with a new driver in Busch, a new manufacturer in Toyota, and a new sponsor in M&M's® Brand Chocolate Candies.

This year's Chase, however, has quickly turned into a nightmare for Busch and Co., in the form of a bad-luck streak that would scare even Frankenstein. A myriad of issues has relegated him to finishes of 28th or worse in four of the first six Chase races to derail the team's title hopes that were oh-so-promising when the Chase started.

Busch hopes that getting back to the place where it all started for him in 2008 might be just what his team needs to get back on track and finish 2008 on the same positive note that it started. Particularly encouraging for the M&M's team is the remaining schedule, which puts the team on 1.5-mile ovals, where they have been particularly strong, at three of the final four events.

So as Busch and his M&M's Halloween paint scheme head to Atlanta this weekend, he'll hope to find in his goody bag the very same treat by Sunday's end that he found there back in March.

KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 M&M's Halloween Toyota Camry at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

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 race car driver when I was kid."

Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and going out 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 want 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 kind of candy what was your favorite?

"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, since who doesn't love M&M's?"

You brought the 18 car back to victory lane for the first time in over four years when you won at Atlanta in March. What stuck out about that day to you?

"It was really awesome to see all the 18 guys back in victory lane at Atlanta and enjoying the win. I remember the years of watching Bobby Labonte dominate at Atlanta and plenty of other places. To see the smiles on everyone's face was great, especially (crew chief) Steve Addington and how excited he was about his first Cup win. And, of course, to get Toyota the win, well, it just all meant so much."

After some criticism of the tire Goodyear brought to Atlanta in March, you helped with two separate tire tests there since that race. How did the tests go and what will you expect when you go back there this weekend?

"The tire test went okay. We seemed to get a little bit better tire and I'm now going to go out and say that it wasn't Goodyear's fault for the spring race. Yeah, we got a better tire now than what we had in the spring, but the tire is only going to be better for eight or 10 laps. The car just doesn't have the amount of downforce it needs to run around that track, and the more and more you go, you just get so loose in and tight in the center and loose off that you just can't stand it. It's going to be a tough race again, same as what it was there in the spring. Not a whole lot different. Just a little bit more comfortable for eight laps instead of just one lap."

Do you think that you were able to learn enough from those tests to have any sort of advantage this time around?

"I don't think it's really necessarily an advantage for us. I think the tire actually is going to bring everybody closer together than what it did in the spring. You really saw the good drivers and you really saw the good cars come out, and this will sort of even it up a little bit. We seemed to be pretty good there in the spring and for our tests. We really couldn't work on anything, so I don't see it as though it was an advantage because you are strictly there doing tire tests for Goodyear. You can't change your car setup. As soon as you get it close, you just pretty much stay with it."

You've had some success at Atlanta with two wins in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, along with your Sprint Cup win there in March. Does that mean you're really looking forward to going back to Atlanta?

"Atlanta definitely doesn't have much grip, but I still seem to like it. There are so many lines. You can run anywhere on the track, and I love that. Coming off turn two, if you're running the low line and start to slide up, you have a tendency to get sideways. But, otherwise, it's a really fun track. It's really a driver's track because, when you get about 40 laps on your tires, you really start to slide around and that can be a handful."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing