When it comes to the patriotism among sports fans, the passion that NASCAR fans have for their country is difficult to beat.
With Fourth of July on the horizon, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles® America Mix Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will sport a special scheme that will proudly show off the Red, White, and Blue as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois for Sunday’s Overton’s 400 that is sure to be a hit with NASCAR’s patriotic fans.
The Skittles America Mix is a must-have for summer gatherings, road trips and, of course, a great snack while watching a NASCAR Cup Series race either in-person or on television. Every bag contains red, white and blue Skittles with fruit flavors that include strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, wild berry and “yumberry” – the first white, fruit-flavored Skittles candy – and are available at retailers nationwide throughout the summer.
With the Chicagoland race weekend returning to July after seven seasons as the September Cup Series Playoff opener, the event takes on a different feel. For Busch, that means a chance to rekindle the magic of his dramatic win at the track just southwest of Chicago in 2008, when the race was also contested in July.
In that 2008 race, a late caution set up a green-white-checkered finish. The Las Vegas native lined up behind now seven-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. On the final restart, Busch made a bold and surprising move to the outside in turns one and two, passing Johnson and holding him off to bring home the win.
In addition to Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S.’s Hackettstown, New Jersey headquarters near its home track of Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Mars has home offices in Chicago, as well, and Busch would like nothing more than to score another “home” win for the Mars Wrigley associates located in downtown Chicago, like he did at Pocono in 2017.
So as Busch heads back to Chicagoland this weekend, he hopes the Skittles America Mix Red, White, and Blue colors will propel him to a second career Chicagoland win. There would be no better way to kick off the July 4 celebration than in victory lane at the 1.5-mile oval in the backyard of one of the main hubs for his primary backers.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Skittles America Mix Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
|How do you feel about how you’ve run at Chicagoland in recent years?
“At Chicago, we ran really well there in ‘08 and, unfortunately, ‘09, ‘10 and ‘11 we kind of a struggled. The last several years we ran well there but didn’t always get the finishes we deserved for how well we ran. We had a really solid top-five run going the last three years, really, and things have happened at the end of the races that have kept us from better finishes. Getting back there in July, it’s likely to be more hot and slick than it’s been in the fall. When this race was in the summer, it was a night race, so with a hot track, the surface is worn out more now and it certainly tends to play to my strengths. Chicago is another home for Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S., now, so we’re hoping to have a strong run with our Skittles America Mix Camry and hopefully give them something to celebrate up there in the Chicago offices. “
Where does the 2008 Cup win at Chicagoland rank in terms of special wins for you, knowing how you made a spectacular move on the outside to win?
“Winning both (Xfinity Series and Cup) races at Chicago that year, it was just a great weekend. It was special, but there have been several special wins the last few years. Obviously, winning twice at the Brickyard was very special and, of course, winning the championship at Homestead in 2015 was a big highlight, as well. But winning Chicago in 2008 was a highlight in those early years at JGR, for sure. Beating Jimmie (Johnson) was definitely really cool. Ultimately, I have a lot of respect for him, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and a lot of guys who have given a lot to this sport over the years, since it’s so competitive and those were guys you had to beat back in those days to win races. To go out and beat guys like that, it’s something pretty special and I really cherished that, for sure.”
With the surface worn out, what’s the key to having a good car at Chicagoland?
“The key is to have a good car on the front side of the run while also saving enough tires to be fast on the back side of the run. Tire longevity is a big deal there. It’s not quite as bad as California or Atlanta. It’s one of those places that’s very similar to Homestead. It’s a fun place where you can run the bottom, middle, top, and you can race all around there. It’s gotten a lot bumpier over the years and you have to get the setup to go over the bumps in turn three. It’s definitely a place where the guys who have been good there over the years have been rewarded each and every year they go back with their experience and what they’ve learned.”
To what do you attribute getting three of the last four poles at Chicagoland?
“I don’t even remember last week, much less last year, about how I qualified here, but it’s been a good place for us for qualifying and having the speed in the short run in the one lap, two laps or whatever it takes. We haven’t quite been great there in the long run. I feel like we have to work on that. Chicagoland is one of those places that is kind of like Richmond, even though they are configured entirely differently. Tire wear is a big deal and being able to keep both right sides on it – you have the keep the right front and you have to keep the right rear on it. I just haven’t been very good at being able to do that there in the long runs.”
Do you kind of bring an “us against the world” mentality to the racetrack?
“Absolutely, yeah. I would agree with that. I think when you come to the racetrack and you have a team like my 18 team, it is ‘us,’ collectively, as a group. But we have ‘us’ as Joe Gibbs Racing, as well, who we work with and we try to help make each other better and stronger, and I feel like we have a strong team in doing that. I’ve pushed Denny (Hamlin) an awful lot over the years, and Denny has pushed me an awful lot over the years, and it’s made us a pretty good duo. But once you get on to the racetrack on Sunday and you strap your helmet on and you come down, especially toward the end of the race, it’s every man for himself. It’s me against the world. It’s me against everybody else. Sometimes you’re against your critics that you have to deal with, as well, and I think all of us have those. And it seems as though those voices have gotten louder over the last few years, just with reachability, let’s call it, with social media and things like that. I don’t think you necessarily saw those in the ’90s, in the ’80s and in the ’70s, but I could say the philosophy of us against the world has been around about forever in sports.”