With the NASCAR Cup Series coming out its only off weekend of the 36-race schedule, Kyle Busch is looking to continue – even improve upon – his already strong performance this season during the second half of the year.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 PEDIGREE Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has brought home six top-five, and 11 top-10 finishes over the first 16 races and finds himself very much in the running for the regular-season championship. He sits 23 points behind series leader Chase Elliott with 10 races to go before the playoffs commence.
In addition to his win on the dirt at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, the Las Vegas native was just an untimely caution flag away from bringing home two more wins at both his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis earlier this month.
The two-time Cup Series champion now looks to start the second half of the season with a win at a place where he has an extensive racing and winning history – the 1.333-mile concrete oval at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. Busch competed in three different series at Nashville – NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, and the ARCA Menards Series. He made his Nashville debut in 2003 in his only ARCA start there and brought home the victory. He was also two-for-two in both his Truck Series starts, both wins coming from the pole in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 win also happened to be the first victory for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.
Busch has the most experience at Nashville in the Xfinity Series, having started 10 races there from 2004 through 2011 that netted a 2009 victory and four top-five finishes. He added a start and an Xfinity Series win in NASCAR’s return to Nashville last season.
In addition to the vast Nashville Superspeedway experience on Busch’s resume, Busch and the No. 18 team have another chance to experience the homecoming of sorts for primary sponsor PEDIGREE®, whose Nashville-area headquarters are just up the road from the track. Busch will visit the facility prior to the race weekend.
The PEDIGREE brand and PEDIGREE Foundation are once again joining forces with Busch and the No. 18 team to spotlight pet adoption and support Mars Petcare’s global ambition to end pet homelessness. Busch’s PEDIGREE paint scheme will feature adoptable dogs and an “Adopt Me” call to action. As part of this collaboration, Mars Petcare, the PEDIGREE brand and PEDIGREE Foundation will host adoption events in Nashville during race weekend, covering all adoption fees at participating shelters for pets that find loving homes from June 24-26.
Participating shelters include Williamson County Animal Center and Nashville Humane Association. Courtesy of Mars Petcare, the PEDIGREE brand, and PEDIGREE Foundation, each adopter will receive a starter kit for the new furry family member that includes food, treats and pet supplies, such as a portable bowl and waste bags.
So as Busch heads to Nashville, he’s hoping to keep the momentum going from a strong first half of the Cup Series season and bring home his first Cup Series win at the tricky concrete track in his next doggone visit to Music City.
How do you feel about the Cup Series racing at Nashville Superspeedway?
“I think it’s a cool racetrack and a cool venue. I raced there a lot over the years in the ARCA Series, the Camping World Truck Series, as well as the Xfinity Series. I’ve had my fair share of races there and also my fair share of wins there. I was able to win the Xfinity Series race there last year, but we struggled a bit with our Cup car there. It’s a whole new ballgame with the new car there this year to see what is going to make our car fast. I think racing in Nashville fits with our sport because NASCAR and country music are kind of synonymous with each other. It’s a great opportunity to race there and we’ll do our best to get our PEDIGREE Camry to victory lane. Really proud to have PEDIGREE on board this weekend and all their work to help dogs find forever homes.”
With the point leaders bunched together at the top of the standings, does that make you focus more on getting playoff and bonus points?
“My answer to that or my mindset to that is you want to create some separation for yourself amongst the rest of your competitors. That betters you throughout the playoffs. With everyone being so close together and keeping bunched up, and with the season being as unpredictable, up and down for everybody, the playoffs could be that exact same way – where there are just way more unknowns. I think it was (The Athletic’s Jeff) Gluck who asked a few weeks ago, ‘Who is your championship favorite right now?’ We are all like, who knows? I feel like you are still at that point to say the Gibbs guys have been fast at the mile-and-a-halves. I would say the TrackHouse guys have been fast about everywhere. At the Phoenix-style track we struggled. The Penske guys were a bit better. There was an SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) car that won that race. Again, I don’t even know where to go, but certainly playoff points are always on everybody’s minds. That was on my mind last race in the first stage, trying to win that first stage to get that playoff point knowing how important those are going to be when the time comes.”
Have you noticed that the intermediate tracks have become more competitive with the new car?
“There have definitely been the good guys – the guys who are good can come through traffic better than the guys who are mediocre, or the guys who aren’t very good can’t come through traffic. I guess when you are frustrated that you can’t come through traffic, you need to get your stuff better, but you can’t really do that throughout a race. It’s hard to change enough on those cars to make a big enough difference in the event while in the event. I guess, to me, I won’t argue that fact. Unfortunately, we could’ve-should’ve won Vegas, could’ve-should’ve won Kansas. A Toyota car did win Kansas. We were fast up front at Charlotte, and then when we spun again, the underbody – we killed the underbody. The car was terrible the whole rest of the day, all because of a spin – spinning while battling for the lead, to stay in the lead, to have a potential to win a stage. People would say, ‘Well, why don’t you just concede the position?’ Because there are stage points in 30 laps or so. It’s just a matter of trying hard and trying to drive the thing. Sometimes they step out from underneath you and you would like to not have to pay such a huge penalty.”