KYLE BUSCH A MOST COLORFUL END TO THE 2009 SEASON HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 18, 2009) -- With a bright yellow racecar covered with images of red and blue and green M&M's chocolate candies, and with a firesuit and helmet to match, it's certainly...
A MOST COLORFUL END TO THE 2009 SEASON
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 18, 2009) -- With a bright yellow racecar covered with images of red and blue and green M&M's chocolate candies, and with a firesuit and helmet to match, it's certainly not a stretch to call Kyle Busch one of the most colorful drivers in NASCAR.
But as the curtain falls on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season this weekend, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), hopes it all simply comes down to a matter of black and white -- checkers, that is.
With his and the No. 18 team's sights already set on a more-determined-than-ever run for the championship in 2010, Busch would love nothing more than to circle the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway after Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 by celebrating another victory with checkered flag in-hand.
That would be a more-than-welcome sight for sponsor M&M's Chocolate Candies, which flew in some special reinforcements to help root Busch and the No. 18 team on from the sidelines this weekend. Cynthia Peace of Havana, Ill., was the grand prize winner of the recent M&M's Seeks the Most Colorful Fan of NASCAR contest and will be joined by family members from California, Oklahoma and Texas in a special VIP experience at Homestead.
Busch, of course, would be more than happy to oblige them in his third race since new crew chief Dave Rogers joined the M&M's team. Two weekends ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, the Busch-Rogers era opened in thoroughly dominating fashion as Busch led a race-high 232 laps before heartbreak set in a mere three laps from the finish when the No. 18 car ran out of gas. Another gallon-and-a-half in the fuel tank that afternoon would have made it a history-making weekend for Busch who, after winning Friday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event, found himself within 4½ miles of becoming the first driver ever to win in NASCAR's top three series in the same weekend.
Such busy weekends have contributed to the appeal of Busch to fans who like his "colorful" personality. Since he arrived on the NASCAR scene in 2001, the now-24-year-old driver from Las Vegas has made racing in multiple series on any given weekend a trademark as well-known as his post-victory bow.
He'll be pulling the "NASCAR Triple" yet again this championship weekend as he's set to tackle Friday's Truck Series and Saturday's Nationwide Series events at Homestead. Busch's focus on Sunday, of course, will be to win the race and solidify his position as the top-finishing driver among those who did not make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. But before that, Busch will clinch his first Nationwide Series title this weekend simply by taking the green flag in Saturday's Ford 300. He leads his nearest competitor, Carl Edwards, by 190 points heading into the Nationwide Series finale.
And so, if Busch could ever make a case for saving his best weekend performance for last, a trifecta of season finales offers the perfect opportunity to make it happen. It'll be a colorful sight to see, to say the least.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You're going to clinch the Nationwide Series championship this weekend. Are there some things that you've learned on that side this year -- consistency being one of them -- that you hope to apply toward trying to win a Sprint Cup championship?
"I've learned a lot, for sure. We've been really consistent over there and it's going to earn us a championship and we're hoping, with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) coming on board with our M&M's Toyota, we can build toward being that consistent starting next year. Any championship in NASCAR is a big deal and I'm proud of the effort by all the guys over there. I've had to learn to be a little more patient and take what the car will give me and not try to drive over my head if my car isn't the best out there. I've tried to learn to take what you have -- if it's a 12th-place finish like we had at Phoenix last week -- you take that, since it's the best you had that day. That kind of stuff wins you championships and something that Jimmie (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus) have been able to do so well. You also want to be the best of the best on the Cup tour and, ultimately, that's what Jimmie's been able to hit on. And I always bring up his name, probably in about every interview, but you have to idolize the guy. Who can win four straight titles in this type of era? Not even Jeff Gordon could do it. It's a big deal. Those guys have really got it together and, one of these days, whoever beats them, I can't imagine if they can go five straight."
You have a unique relationship with fans since they are very passionate one way or another. With M&M's naming NASCAR's most colorful fan this weekend at Homestead, what do you think the fans appreciate about you, whether they root for you or someone else?
"Our fans are some of the most passionate fans in any sport. What we have in common is that they're fans who love to watch racing as much as I love to put on a show. I'm definitely colorful, so some fans like that about me and some fans don't. But that's okay, since that's what makes sports great. I like the Denver Broncos and I want to see them beat another team, and there are teams I like and I don't like. You always want to be liked by everyone, but that's not realistic. I got a lot of fan support when I was going for the triple at Texas and had people rooting for me because they know I race hard. They might not always agree with everything I do, but the fans love racing and I love racing. Look at what Jimmie Johnson has done and some people root against him. It's just part of it and we're fortunate that fans love our sport and tune in and come to the track and see us every week."
Homestead is a track where you have your fewest Sprint Cup starts. What will you expect at Homestead this weekend?
"It seems like I've never been able to finish a race at Homestead. I always seem to run into bad luck there, and last year's race was my best finish and we were like 20th before last year. We ran alright there last year, but ran out of gas at the end and still finished 19th. But, there have been several tracks that I've not run well at before this year and ended up winning the race, like we did at Atlanta, or running well on the road course races."
Do you need a different mindset to race the current Sprint Cup car as opposed to a Truck or a Nationwide Series car? Will you have to be constantly changing mindsets, since you'll be driving all three series one final time this weekend?
"I think the more races I drive in the weekend, it helps me more than anything. I learned more in the Truck race on Friday in Texas than I ever have before, and that helped me win on Saturday and run as well as we did on Sunday. I believe there's a way you drive the Trucks and there's a way you drive the Nationwide Series cars. That's full-out, as fast as you can go. The harder you go, the faster you can go, and it's such a momentum game with those two. You have to pace yourself in the Cup cars a bit. You have to slow them down. You can drive them hard for the first three or four laps. Then, you have to start backing off, start slowing down, slowing up your entry, slowing down in the center, just kind of moseying around the corner, trying to make the thing stick in one particular groove. I've found something that's worked for me earlier this season. You know, we're gaining on the car every week. But I think a lot of it is a little bit of driver. You've got to stay calm when you can. You've got to get going when the time's right and not get too excited before then, or you are prone to make a mistake."