After capturing his sixth win of the season Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Kyle Busch now has 49 career victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Even before he gets to this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, he’ll already have a winner riding along on his No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
After the return of its popular Flavor Vote campaign this spring, the M&M’S brand announced that Crunchy Mint was the winner of the promotion, topping Crunchy Espresso and Crunchy Raspberry to not only win the Flavor Vote title but, beginning this month, join the M&M’S lineup and continue to be sold at stores nationwide for an 18-month period, while supplies last.
All three flavors from the campaign rode along with Busch into victory lane back in April as the Flavor Vote car was victorious at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Fresh off its newly announced victory, M&M’S Crunchy Mint gets to ride along with Busch on the Watkins Glen road course for Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen in hopes of the flavor’s first solo trip to victory lane.
Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Crunchy Mint Toyota head to Upstate New York for the second and final true road-course race of the NASCAR Cup Series season as he looks to keep his summer hot streak going when the series visits Watkins Glen. If the 2015 Cup Series champion were to grab another checkered flag in Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen, he could also join some elite company as a road-racing ace in NASCAR’s top series.
Busch is tied with David Pearson and Mark Martin with four Cup Series road-course wins apiece. That’s some pretty good company, already. But with a fifth road-course win, he could tie Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond and Dan Gurney on the road-course win list. There is a bit of distance to the top two spots on the all-time road-course wins list, however, as second-place Jeff Gordon has seven wins and leader Tony Stewart has nine.
Busch scored his fourth career Cup Series road-course win in June 2015 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, and he heads to Watkins Glen with an impressive 11 top-10 finishes in his 13 career starts at The Glen, which includes two victories. Add an average finish of 9.8, along with his 216 laps led, and Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s race.
After Busch’s inaugural Cup Series victory at The Glen in 2008, he nearly won for the second time on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn circuit in his 2011 and 2012 visits there before breaking through again in 2013 with another victory in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region. A third victory Sunday at The Glen would continue to solidify Busch and the M&M’S Crunchy Mint team as the favorite each time the series comes to town.
Busch looks to add to the record books in another way starting Sunday, as well. With his Pocono win last weekend, Busch is now tied with former JGR teammate Stewart for 13th on the all-time Cup Series win list, which is some impressive company. The next win would tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett, who both won 50 races in NASCAR’s top series during their storied careers.
So as Busch heads to Upstate New York for some road racing this weekend, he would like to accomplish a few things – add another victory to win column for the M&M’S Crunchy mint flavor, while also adding to the record books as one of NASCAR’s best road-course racers and continue climbing the ladder on the all-time overall win list. Seems like a win-win for all involved.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crunchy Mint Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
|What are you expectations for Watkins Glen this weekend coming off a big win at Pocono?
“Watkins Glen has obviously been a really good place for me over the years and a place I really enjoy. We’ve just got to keep coming to the track and executing like we have. There are a lot of factors in strategy that affect a road-course race and hope we can execute like we have been and get another win. Certainly, the bonus points from that and trying to win the regular-season championship could be a big deal in the playoffs. We’ll just try to get another one with our M&M’S Crunchy Mint flavor on the car this weekend. Pretty excited to have the M&M’S Flavor Vote winner on the car this weekend. It seemed to be pretty good luck when we ran the M&M’S Flavor Vote scheme and ended up winning the race.”
What does it mean to tie Tony Stewart with 49 career wins?
“That’s awesome, and you keep reaching higher up the ladder and you keep reaching milestone drivers and Tony Stewart is one of the all-time best and one of the drivers that I was a fan of, as well, growing up. So, it’s awesome to be able to tie him. There are many more that we want to keep tying and getting higher than, but Tony’s a great friend and it’s pretty cool to be able to get that. What’s crazy is how this year keeps going. You know, it’s like (Kevin) Harvick gets one, we get one, (Martin) Truex (Jr.) gets one, and we’re all back and forth. We answered the call at Pocono without having the fastest car and that’s what matters.”
You’ve had some success at Watkins Glen. What makes Watkins Glen challenging, and why is it so much different than racing at Sonoma?
“I like going to Watkins Glen. It’s a road course, but it’s kind of a high-speed road course. The difference in the two road courses, you think of Sonoma as like a Martinsville-type road course and you would think of Watkins Glen like a 2-mile oval, like a California- or Michigan-type road course. Watkins Glen has some speed and has some wide-open spaces a little bit, but there is still a lot great racing that happens there since you are able to out-brake people getting into the corners, or having a better run through the bus stop, or maybe getting by someone in the Carousel. It’s a fun place to race. I really like Watkins Glen and I hope we can have another solid run there with our M&M’S Crunchy Mint Camry.”
What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses is pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging, yet a lot of fun. As you come down the front straightaway, it’s a downhill braking zone, so you feel like you don’t have to brake as soon as you need to, but you need to in order to get slowed down for turn one. You try to stay out and get a good, hard cut to the right for turn one and accelerate out of there as quickly as you can to get set up for the esses. (You) stay wide on the left and then turn into the right-hander in (turn) two – smooth. You’re getting out of the gas but not using too much brake, just rolling off in there. As the car gets in there and loads, it actually takes a really big set because that’s when you start going back uphill. So the car will load up and that’s when you get back in the gas really wide open. And then you have to turn back to the left and be able to roll back out of it just enough to make the car bend. And then you’re back wide open again to the right-side guardrail and just keeping it tight through the right-hander that we call turn five.”
What is the most challenging part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“I’d say the most challenging thing is the culmination of the Inner Loop and the Carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess.”
What does it take to be successful at Watkins Glen?
“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops I’m unsure of because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year. At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack.”