KYLE BUSCH Looking for the 'Luck of the Irish Hills' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 10, 2009) -- During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan -- located near U.S. 12, approximately halfway between Detroit and Chicago -- was a...
Looking for the 'Luck of the Irish Hills'
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 10, 2009) -- During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan -- located near U.S. 12, approximately halfway between Detroit and Chicago -- was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.
At the turn of the century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet.
Now, two weekends a year, the Irish Hills come to life and become anything but peaceful and quiet when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the state's largest sporting event.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping that his upcoming stopover in the Irish Hills for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan brings a little bit of the "Luck of the Irish Hills" his way.
While the talented 24-year-old has a series-high three Sprint Cup wins to his credit this season, along with most laps led among all drivers this season (789), tough luck has thwarted potential top-five finishes for Busch during at least five of the 14 Sprint Cup races contested thus far.
The first of two visits to the 2-mile Michigan oval just might be the perfect medicine to help get Busch back to his race-winning form. Only twice in his eight Sprint Cup starts at Michigan has Busch finished worse than 14th. And, to add to the potential excitement, the LifeLock 400 will be the second race employing NASCAR's new double-file restart rule and perhaps the first to yield a late-race restart that could generate a mad dash to the finish. A long, race-ending green-flag run closed the festivities last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where the new restart rule made its debut. If there is someone capable of delivering the kind of excitement the new rule is intended to deliver at the conclusion of a race, the most likely candidate is Busch, whose aggressive style certainly lends itself to this format.
So, as Busch and the M&M's team head to the Irish Hills, they'll hope a little luck will be just the thing they need to lock up their fourth Sprint Cup Series win of the season at the LifeLock 400.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Before Pocono, you got a chance to visit the Mars Snackfood U.S. headquarters in Hackettstown, N.J., and meet the Mars associates who make M&M's Chocolate Candies. Did you enjoy the visit, and what does it mean to have the backing of Mars products?
"It was a lot of fun getting to tour the plant where they make M&M's and getting to meet everyone there. They've been really supportive and I was glad I was able to spend time with the associates there. You just see the quality of how they do things and how they use 100-percent cocoa butter in all of their chocolate products. They've got the Mars Real Chocolate Relief act logo on the car this weekend, actually, and they're giving a little relief to everyone by giving away free chocolate every Friday, all summer long, at realchocolate.com. It's a great company to be associated with and, besides, who doesn't like free chocolate?"
What are your overall thoughts on heading to Michigan International Speedway?
"It's just a fun place to race. Its wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing is just trying to get grip there. Some guys are able to get it, other guys can't. You can get it for maybe five laps and then you're just out to lunch. The biggest thing is just trying to make your car comfortable and make it last throughout a whole tire run and, of course, make it fast, too. And the wide racetrack is good. That's what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That's the biggest deal about it. For me, coming to Michigan, I tend to run well there, for whatever reason, and the biggest deal is trying to finish and finish up front. It should be interesting to see if we get a late restart with the double-file restart rule on a track that wide, since we really didn't get a chance to see that last week at Pocono."
Will the double-file restarts work to your advantage?
"It kind of depends -- it depends on where you're at, first. If you're at Martinsville, Darlington, Indianapolis -- if you're at those places -- then you're not going to be able to do much. Places like this weekend at Michigan, and places like Texas and Atlanta -- areas where you might have a little more room -- it won't be so bad. It's really going to be odd to see how, exactly, the outside lane works because, if you're stuck in the outside lane and the inside lane boxes you up against the wall, then you can't go anywhere. It's really going to be tricky, but once you get to the corners like they have at Michigan, you'll be able to go five-wide. I will be curious to see how it all plays out when it happens. I look forward to it. It's a change. It's something new, and it should be fun to try to work through it and try to find the loopholes that will help me be a little bit better on the restarts."
How will your race philosophy change with the double-file restarts?
"You'll see a lot of restarts like the last 10 laps at the All-Star race in the last 10 laps of our races. I think at the beginning of the race, everybody is going to be calm. It will be just like the start of the race probably most of the race. I don't foresee anybody really needing to take any chances, including myself, probably, until at least with about 50 miles to go, or maybe less than 100 miles to go. It depends on how you have to plan your day out. If you still have another pit stop, or if you still have two more pit stops, you don't need to worry about it. If you've got one more pit stop, then you need to 'ante-up' and get your track position before that last pit stop, so then your crew can get you out front. You have to play it like that."
You are a big fan of the University of Michigan. How did you become a fan?
"My brother moved up to Michigan years ago to run in the Truck series and he went to a Michigan game. He bought me a Michigan sweatshirt and sent it home for me. I never really paid attention to college football until then, but I became a Michigan fan. It's not too complicated of a story, but it's fun to be able to follow them when I have a Saturday afternoon off in the fall. I was lucky enough to be able to go to their practice before and get to know a few of the guys. Coach Belein (University of Michigan men's basketball head coach) and his family visited me last year and they are coming back on Sunday to hang out with us at the track, so I've met some of the basketball guys, too. You always respect people who are as competitive as you are, and they certainly have the same drive to win that I do."