Looking for a Few Firsts at Daytona
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 9, 2011) - Kyle Busch and the M&M's team are shooting for several firsts as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season warms up with Saturday night's non-points-paying Budweiser Shootout, continues through next week's Gatorade Duels, and begins in earnest with the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Feb. 20.
For starters, the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be seeking something he badly wants to add to his resume: his first win in NASCAR's biggest race - the Daytona 500 - and in the process bring M&M's and Toyota their first victory in the Great American Race.
And while the talented 25-year-old will enter his seventh full season as a Sprint Cup competitor, this season will be his first as a married man as he wed longtime girlfriend Samantha Sarcinella on New Year's Eve in Chicago.
Finally, Busch's primary backer M&M's will debut the company's first-ever dedicated NASCAR commercial during the Daytona 500 telecast. Filmed at the close of last season at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., the spot features on-track action, as well as the wildly popular "spokescandies" Red and Yellow starring alongside M&M's driver, Busch. The TV ad will also debut the new M&M's NASCAR advertising theme for 2011 - "M&M's Makes Race Day More Fun" - which will play out in a variety of ways during the season.
In addition to M&M's, Busch always has another very important thing on his mind that can make his race day more fun - winning. Nobody visited victory lane more times across NASCAR's top three series in 2010 than the Las Vegas native.
Busch made 81 total NASCAR starts in 2010 - 36 in the Sprint Cup Series, 29 in the Nationwide Series, and 16 in the Camping World Truck Series, the latter of which he served as driver-owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports during its inaugural season. He won 24 races in all - three in Sprint Cup, a record-smashing 13 in Nationwide, and eight in the Truck Series - for an incredible winning percentage of nearly 30 percent. Coupled with his 21 overall wins in 2008 and 20 in 2009, Busch has recorded an astounding 65 NASCAR victories over the past three seasons.
But for all of that winning across NASCAR's top three national series the past three seasons, Busch and second-year M&M's Toyota crew chief Dave Rogers know full well that the focus of everything they do in 2011 needs to be on winning the Sprint Cup championship. The crown jewels of Busch's title chase are three races he's dreamed his whole racing career of adding to his winning resume - the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the aforementioned Daytona 500.
So, as Busch heads to Daytona to kick off this year's Speedweeks, he is as determined as ever to take the Daytona 500's Harley J. Earl Trophy back to his home in Mooresville, N.C., and lay the ultimate groundwork for a championship run in 2011.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What is your level of excitement heading into 2011?
"I feel pretty good about it. I'm pretty confident with the guys and with the team and with the cars and everything we have with the 18 team. Toyota has come a long way and, hopefully, we can make up some more ground this year at being able to compete for the championship. Denny (Hamlin, teammate) running the way he did last year was really great for Joe Gibbs Racing, being able to be in contention until the last race. Overall, we're all pumped up and ready to go. You sit around all winter long and you think about when the season's going to start and it turns around and it's here, already."
How much ground is there to make up for you this year?
"I think anything you don't capitalize on and any races you don't win, any championship you don't win, there's obviously ground to be made up. There's ground to be made up somewhere. With us, we just need to put the total package together and be able to go out there and reach our potential to be able to win."
Have you pinpointed areas where you and your team can improve for 2011?
"I think we need to be better at preventing some things. Whether it's car problems or myself losing my temper or maybe just working with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) a little better. Communication and being able to talk goes a long way in this sport now. It seems like it's that way more than ever. It used to just be laid on the crew chief: 'Bring me a good car and I'll win the race.' Now, you have to work on making a good car. The competition is so close."
Do you feel like you are able to win a Sprint Cup championship?
"I would certainly hope so. I feel like there are a lot of ways that people try to sidetrack you, but you have to forget about that stuff and know what's important. What's important first and foremost is family, with what's at home, and then, of course, you look at your career and your business and what happens here at Joe Gibbs Racing - making the most of the effort for Toyota and M&M's. With that, we try to look forward at making the most of this year and try to bring home a championship for JGR in their 20th year."
What type of goals do you have for race wins in your career?
"I haven't achieved any of my race win goals that I've wanted to achieve since I've come here. I've achieved everything else under the sun that I've never thought about achieving. The ones that I really want, like the (Daytona) 500, like the (Brickyard) 400, like the (Coca-Cola) 600 - a Charlotte Cup win at all - an All-Star race, the championship, all that stuff. I haven't gotten any of that. I'm hoping one of these days I'll have the opportunity to win those. I don't think it's at the point, yet, where you're worried about it. But when you get to be probably about 35, then you're like, 'Man, I only have five more chances to get some of these because they only come once a year.' Hopefully, by then, I can have some of that knocked out."
What does it mean for you to be the first NASCAR driver M&M's has featured in a commercial spot?
"It's great to be involved with the characters and I'm excited to be a part of the first M&M'S commercial about the racing program. This has been a neat experience and I'm hoping everyone likes it. It's a little difficult to act with the characters because it's almost like talking to nobody, but you have an idea of what the final spot will look like and you know what the characters are all about, so that makes it easier."