Kyle Busch Luck of the Irish Hills

Joe Gibbs Racing

As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the 2-mile oval’s first-ever doubleheader weekend, Kyle Busch is looking for a little bit of the Luck of the Irish.

The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is looking to bounce back from some terrible luck last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where a cut tire just 15 laps into the race resulted in contact with the outside wall to end his day prematurely.

The good news is that Busch will have not one, but two chances to turn his luck around this weekend. The series heads to the lightning-fast track situated in Michigan’s “Irish Hills” approximately 80 miles southwest of Detroit for Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 and Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400.

While the area near the track is known as the Irish Hills, it’s not because of any Irish heritage. During the 19th century, that area of Michigan, located near U.S. 12 just about 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 20th 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.

Busch scored his first Michigan Cup Series win in August 2011. Then the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season and, while he scored a solid fourth-place finish on the new surface in June 2013, he has not had the results to match his high standards since. However, his 2018 and 2019 stops on the Michigan circuit netted three top-five finishes and no finish worse than sixth, which has gotten Busch closer to what he looks for week in and week out at any track.

So, as Busch and the M&M’S Fudge Brownie team head to the Upper Midwest this weekend, they hope to find the Luck of the Irish (Hills) with two chances to make it to victory lane for the first time this season and the second time in his career in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

You brought home top-five finishes in three of your last four races at Michigan. What do you expect this weekend?

“I’m not entirely sure. We’ll just go into the race with our best guess and go from there. We had a lot of struggles on the repave but turned that around the last several times there. We’ve certainly gotten a better handle on the place the last several races there, so I don’t know if it’s because the surface has worn in a little bit more, or we’ve been able to put things together better. Much like Pocono, I’m hoping we can have a solid run on Saturday, and then work on our car overnight and even have a better handle on it Sunday. At Pocono, we just weren’t able to see the results because of getting wrecked out there about halfway, so we’ll look to get in a better position at Michigan this weekend and have a good run with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry.”

How do you feel going into Michigan and what does that track mean for you guys on the schedule?

“We just try to figure out what we can continue to do to evolve and get better there. The setup there equates nothing to anything that we race throughout the playoffs, so really it’s just a track that we have to go to and do the best we can. But, beyond that, you never want to give away any opportunities to go out there and have a solid day with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry so we con solidify ourselves a bit more. We’ve put a focus on that track for the last two years and we’ve gained. We’ve certainly made improvements. I think we’ve run well there and our finishes are starting to show it.”

Do you expect the track surface to be worn in a little bit more this year?

“I expect it to be fast, still. There’s still a lot of grip, but I’m hoping it’s starting to get worn in like Kansas did. But if you’re just a little bit loose there, now you’renervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck, like it has in the past. It was really intense last year in the races there. You are hauling there now in the turns, for sure, and we know that corner speeds are up overall this year at other places.”

What are the most critical adjustments you can make between each race at Michigan?

“Obviously springs, shocks, bars, whatever you can change, all that sort of stuff – making some adjustments. Knowing how much the track changes in that first race will give you a basis to how much you expect it to change in the second race, barring any weather or the track. If it’s a 68-degree day one day and a 90-degree day the next, there are going to be some big differences you’re going to want to adjust for and compensate for. Having a good notebook will certainly, I think, help with us and our team, and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) being on board since 2015 with some experience there. I think Adam did a great job of adjusting between races at the Pocono doubleheader. We just weren’t able to see the results for it.”

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