A quick peek at the current string of racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule leaves no doubt there’s more of a “Mix” of different shapes and sizes that have kept competitors in NASCAR’s top series on their toes.
Throughout the month of April and into May, NASCAR goes from the Virginia short tracks of Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway on to NASCAR’s largest track at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, then to the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and last weekend to one of NASCAR’s most historic and unique tracks at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Through it all, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has started to hit his stride as the series heads to yet another unique track this weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Sunday’s Drydene 400 on the concrete mile oval. The recent mixture of tracks has certainly helped Busch and first-year crew chief Ben Beshore gain a lot of momentum, including their first win together two weekends ago at Kansas, along with a strong third-place finish last weekend at the tricky Darlington egg-shaped oval.
On the high banks of Dover, affectionately known as the “Monster Mile,” Busch and his M&M’S MIX team have a strong resume with his third career and most recent Cup Series win there coming in October 2017 on a dramatic, late-race pass of Chase Elliott.
In addition to his three career wins at Dover, Busch and his M&M’S MIX team have some impressive stats to bolster their confidence this weekend. Along with the wins in NASCAR’s top series, Busch has scored five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins. He’s led 1,213 laps in his previous 32 Cup Series starts there, an average of almost 40 laps led per race. Busch has also scored 13 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s at the track.
Busch will return to Dover with the M&M’S MIX scheme that went to victory lane at Kansas in its first appearance this season. M&M’S MIX combines three different flavors of M&M’S in one bag. There are two different types: Classic Mix, which features Milk Chocolate, Peanut and Peanut Butter, and the Peanut MIX, which combines Milk Chocolate Peanut, Dark Chocolate Peanut and White Chocolate Peanut. Race fans can pick up M&M’S MIX at local retailers and see the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Camry this weekend at Dover and next weekend at the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas.
So, as Busch and his M&M’S MIX team look to “Mix” it up at Dover, the two-time Cup Series champion hopes the final outcome nets his second win of the season and fourth Cup Series trip to victory lane on the Delmarva Peninsula.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
| What is it about Dover that seems to suit your style? “I used to think I was one of the better guys that could run the bottom but, ever since we’ve run there with this body style, you really don’t wrap the bottom as much as you did in years prior to that. It’s kind of moved around and it’s a little bit different and you kind of diamond the corners a bit now, so I feel like that’s a bit easier for the whole field to kind of understand. The tires change every single year, and how the rubber goes down on the track at Dover makes it one of those really big, tire-sensitive tracks where, as the rubber goes down and the grip changes, you search around and try to find other grooves to run in. So there’s a lot going on at Dover that you have to try to figure out. We’ll do our best this weekend to make sense of all that during the race and have another strong run with our M&M’S MIX Toyota.” |
We’ve had a lot of fans back in the stands in recent races. Dover this weekend is another one where there were no fans last year but they’re welcoming fans back for this race. What does it mean to have more and more fans back each week? “We are an entertainment sport and an entertainment business, so having fans in the stands is what it’s all about, having people enjoy pulling for their favorite driver, whoever that may be. It’s important to have that comradery between the athletes and the fans. The last several weekends, at Talladega the infield was jamming, we had a great crowd and great weather on Mother’s Day at Darlington. They’ve been able to get to the sell-out most places as far as what each state allows, so we’ll look forward to having those folks back in the stands this weekend at Dover, as well. NASCAR has been doing a good job of getting more fans back in the stands and also keeping people safe, and I’m looking forward to more and more fans coming back to the track going forward.”
Now heading into the 13th race of the season with your crew chief Ben Beshore, how do you think you are meshing as a team? “I feel like we are definitely growing and getting better – the things we are going to the race track with – and we come back to the shop after and talk about it, and then we go to the next race we are even better. That’s important and that’s good. I feel like we are able to fine-tune our setups and our cars to get the speed that we need in order to go to the track better prepared the next race.”
You have said that you feel like your team is starting to mesh. How would you assess your team overall right now? “I think things are going good. We’re talking a lot – Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and myself and the group. We’re clicking a little bit and we’re trying to get everybody on the same page about what I like to feel in the car, how I drive the car, that sort of stuff. We’ll keep working on it each week and I think, the more races we get under our belt, the better we’ll be. We are starting to have our setups closer to what we need right off the truck early in the race and that’s very encouraging because we can stay up there and get more stage points and not have to work all race to get the car where we need it to be.”
Where does Dover rank among your favorite tracks? “Dover is definitely high up there. It’s one of my favorite racetracks, and how it actually drives, too. Bristol is my favorite with the half-mile concrete racetrack where Dover is a mile concrete track, and there are a lot of similarities in those two places. A lot of things that I’ve been able to learn and do at Dover over the course of my career, we’ve had a lot of wins and strong finishes in every series I’ve run there. Would love nothing more than to figure out the magic stuff that helps get me back to victory lane again there.”
|Notes of Interest:|
| ● Recent Dover Success:The Las Vegas native found success at Dover in his first three seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, as Busch brought home Cup Series wins there in 2008 and 2010. Busch went seven years without a victory at Dover from his 2010 win until he made a dramatic late-race pass of Chase Elliott in the 2017 playoff race at Dover. He had nine top-five finishes between his Dover victories and has had many strong runs at the concrete mile oval. |
● All in the Stats:Busch has three wins, 13 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s and has led a total of 1,213 laps in 32 career Cup Series starts at Dover. Busch’s average Dover finish is 13.8.
● Looking for (more than) One: After leading nine laps early at Darlington last weekend, Busch is just 11 laps shy of leading 18,000 laps in NASCAR’s top series. At least 11 laps led this weekend at Dover will help Busch eclipse the 18,000-laps-led mark. Busch has the most laps led among active drivers as his next-closest active competitor – Kevin Harvick – has led 15,604 laps led in his career at Dover.
● 216 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 216 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at Dover. Busch has 58 Cup Series wins, 97 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and 61 wins in the Camping World Truck Series. Most recently, he swept the Truck Series and Cup Series races at Kansas two weekends ago.
● In the Loop: Busch leads all active drivers in several statistical categories at Dover, including quality passes, laps in the top-15, and driver rating.