At one point in his career, Kyle Busch would run at least two races on any given weekend on a regular basis. While those weekends have slowed a bit in frequency in recent years, the two-time Cup Series champion will dip his toes in the water five times a year to compete in both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series on the same weekend.
The Cup and Xfinity Series head to Austin, Texas, this weekend to compete on the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course at Circuit of Americas (COTA) for the first time ever. And Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Sunday’s Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix, will also be taking part in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race behind the wheel of the No. 54 SKITTLES Gummies Supra.
While this is the first time NASCAR is competing at COTA, the circuit has hosted various other racing events that include the yearly stop for Formula One in America since 2012, as well as IndyCar, Moto GP, sportscars and many others.
Busch as shown a propensity for road-course racing during his Cup Series career, and with a record seven road-course circuits on the schedule this year, he may have a chance to move himself up on the list of NASCAR road-course race winners. If Busch could win this weekend, he could also join some elite company as a road-racing ace in NASCAR’s top series. The M&M’S MIX driver’s four road-course wins tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Mark Martin on the all-time Cup Series road-course wins list. That’s some pretty good company, already. But with a fifth road-course win, Busch could tie Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond, Dan Gurney, and young star Chase Elliott on the list at five. There is a bit of distance to the top two spots on the all-time road-course wins list, of course, when it comes to catching Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who have nine and eight career road-course wins, respectively.
Road-course racing has taken on even more importance in the Cup Series this year with the addition of COTA, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the road courses at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway added to the traditional stops at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. With those additions in mind, it’s more important than ever to have a strong driver and team that can turn left and right this season and beyond.
Busch will once again pilot the M&M’S MIX scheme that went to victory lane at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in its first appearance this season earlier this month. 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 across the country.
So, as Busch and his M&M’S MIX team head down to Texas’s capital city, they know they’ll have a challenge ahead of them at COTA this weekend, but the Las Vegas native is hoping to do the “Texas Two-Step” on Saturday and Sunday with a shot at not one but a pair of victories.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
| What’s it going to be like for the first races at COTA with NASCAR’s top three series this weekend? “They’ve had a little bit of history there with Formula One, IndyCar and other racing series there, but obviously the first time for NASCAR Cup Series cars there this weekend. There are a lot of flat turns on that circuit and a little bit of elevation change, which could make for some interesting moments. Our big heavy stock cars with not a lot of downforce running around that road course is going to take a lot. We’ll see how it goes. There’s some experience like that with the NASCAR Xfinity Series guys running Road America, with its long road course, as well. Some of the young guys in our series who have run at Road America will have a little bit of an advantage there, and also when we go to Road America in the summer. But I was able to visit a couple of times in April, it was even in the same week. We went there for a Toyota media event and announcement and then I was back there in another type of car just trying to learn the circuit and what it takes to get around there. We’ve also had plenty of simulator time, too, so hopefully we can be on top of things when we arrive there this weekend.” |
How do you feel like you are as a race team right now? “I feel like we are growing and getting better. Each and every week, we continue to work on the evolution of our car and our setups. This last week, we had the engine issue, unfortunately, at Dover, so all you can do is run hard and try to take something out of it for another track at some point this year. You learn anything you can no matter the circumstance. Last year was a bit of a struggle and we just haven’t been able to show that dominating speed I’ve been accustomed to over the years of my career. We’ve found some things that we hope are going to get us back to that point and run up front in the top-three every single week and try and shoot for those wins. We are sort of in that fourth-to-eighth-place range and we are getting closer to having that top-three speed each week, and the win certainly helps everyone’s confidence, but we also know we have a lot of work to do.”
You are running both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series races this weekend. Are doubleheaders fun for you? “I feel like preparing for a doubleheader is pretty easy. I’ve always been used to running in two or three races in a weekend, running the Truck, Xfinity, Cup, whatever it may be. I like that, so I think it gives us an opportunity to get out there and get our feet wet in the first race in the Xfinity Series, and get a feel for the tire and really think about what you can learn. This weekend at COTA, we are running the Xfinity Series race with Skittles on that car and M&M’S MIX on Sunday, so we have a couple of Mars Wrigley brands we would like to have a good weekend for. Obviously this weekend you go to a place where we’ve never run a race before, so getting some track time in the Xfinity car on Friday and Saturday is going to be very important. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it will be nice to have some extra track time to work on my car and get some experience and also have just a little bit more knowledge of what it’s like beyond what we do in our SIM and other ways we prepare for races.”
Is road-course racing something that comes naturally to you, or is it something you had to work on? “It’s definitely something you have to work on. With rule changes and tire changes, it’s something you work on every year. There’s always change that you have to work on to be competitive. When I was a kid back in Las Vegas in Legends cars, that’s where I was able to learn about shifting and turning left and turning right. I had the natural instincts for it and won a couple of championships in the winter series we had out there. We actually went out to Sonoma back then and ran the national championship races two years in a row and finished third both times, so I had a little bit of experience on road courses as I came up through the ranks.”
|Notes of Interest:|
| ● Road Course Ringer: Busch scored his fourth career Cup Series road-course win in June 2015 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, and he heads to COTA with 11 top-five finishes and 19-top-10s at the traditional road-course stops on the schedule with 35 combined starts at Sonoma, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course, and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. |
● ‘MIXING’ It up: NASCAR made some bold moves on the 2021 schedule, which saw the series bolster its road-course races with the addition of COTA, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the Daytona road course, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to the schedule to make a record seven road-course stops in 2021 for NASCAR’s top series.
● Laps Led: After leading nine laps two races ago at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Busch is just 11 laps shy of leading 18,000 laps in NASCAR’s top series. At least 11 laps led this weekend at COTA 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.
● 216 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 216 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at COTA. 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 three weekends ago and is schedule to compete in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race in addition to Sunday’s Cup Series race.