With nine wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s top series, including a win there this past spring on the dirt surface, Kyle Busch and many of his fans consider Bristol to be his best track.
While Busch’s stats are quite strong at Bristol, there’s one other track where his stats are even more impressive, the .75-mile oval at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, the site of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has six career Cup Series victories at Richmond, most among active drivers. In addition to those six career wins, Busch’s Richmond stat sheet shows 18 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 33 career starts, making him the most consistent active driver at the track.
The Las Vegas native also leads all active drivers with his Richmond average finishing position of 6.9. Next best is Kevin Harvick at 9.9. Busch has completed all but one of the 13,229 laps available to him in his 33 Richmond starts.
The first four of Busch’s six career Richmond wins came in consecutive spring races from 2009 to 2012, besting Richard Petty’s previous record of three Richmond spring-race wins in a row from 1971 to 1973. Busch’s other two Richmond wins came in a sweep of the 2018 races there. With his impressive statistics and records to back him up, it’s little wonder that a visit to Richmond is one of Busch’s favorite stops on the NASCAR tour.
More recently, Busch has an active streak of nine consecutive top-10 finishes at Richmond, a streak which started in September 2017 and includes two of his six victories there. That streak is the longest current top-10 streak at the short track. Busch has finished outside the top-10 just twice at Richmond since the 2013 season.
So, as the series heads to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” one of Busch’s favorite two destinations on the schedule, he and the M&M’S team would like to add to his six victories there and get him closer to matching his incredible record at Bristol.
You had a strong run at Richmond in the spring, but you didn’t get the result you seemed to deserve because of a penalty for tape on the grille. What do you expect this weekend in the second race there with the NextGen car?
“Richmond has been great place for me over the years. I’m not sure exactly why, but it started off rough for me, not running well there in the Truck Series in 2001, but I got back there in an Xfinity car in 2003 and 2004 and everything went really well ever since then. We’ve had a lot of top-fives, a lot of top-two finishes and wins there, so excited about our prospects of going back there this weekend and running well again. I thought we had a legitimate shot of a top-three finish there in the spring and maybe a chance at a win, but would love to be able to better our result from the spring with our M&M’S Camry.”
What are your thoughts on the “win-and-you’re-in” format for the playoffs, especially with so many winners this year?
“I think it gives you a sense of urgency. Especially for the guys who don’t have one, they know they need a win to get in and to feel safely in the playoffs. There is that reward, but if there are 16 or 17 winners, should we open it up to anyone who won? I don’t think so, there still should be some sense of urgency with the race within the race. We already have that with stages, too, where there are actually three races within a race with stages. It’s just a matter of being in that top-16, we all know what the rules are and the results will speak for themselves.”
What does it take to get around Richmond?
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are. The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Camry another win there.”
What is it about Richmond that suits your driving style?
“I don’t know, I started out really bad there. That first Truck Series race there was horrible. I think I ran into everything but the hot dog stand. The next time I went there was with Hendrick (Motorsports) in the Busch Series in 2004 when they first repaved the track, and I ran really well. We were able to win that race, and I led the most laps. From that point forward, I feel like I kind of learned or had a sense of what it takes to be fast there and what you need to be able to do to win there. As the years have gone on, the racetrack has definitely aged, it’s definitely gone through some transition, it has lost a lot of grip. There have been some changes in that respect, as well, just trying to figure out, ‘OK, what’s next? What’s the next thing that’s going to keep you on top of your game at Richmond?’ The new car is another challenge that we took there this year. It’s always been a good track for me, I enjoy going there. It’s a fun short track. It’s a very challenging short track that doesn’t lend itself to typical short tracks around the country.”