It was the first race of the 10-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and 2015 champion Kyle Busch and his M&M’S Hazelnut team began their quest for their second championship Sunday with a disappointing result at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But in the playoffs, drivers and teams take the bad days, minimize them as much as possible and move on, which is exactly what Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens plan to do. The good news for Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry, is the next race on the schedule is at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, a place where he has the best average finish of any track on the current schedule.
A quick look at Busch’s Cup Series statistics at Richmond shows six career victories – most among active drivers – including two in the last three races there. In addition to his six career wins at the .75-mile short track, the Busch’s Richmond stat sheet shows 17 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s in 28 career starts, making him the most consistent active drivers at the track.
The Las Vegas native is at the top among active drivers in average finishing position at Richmond – 7.0. Next best is Kevin Harvick’s average finish of 7.9. Busch has completed all but one of the 11,229 laps available to him in his 28 Richmond starts. Of those, Busch has run in the top-15 for 9,947 laps, or 88.6 percent, which ranks second among active drivers.
His 19th-place finish in Sunday’s playoff opener at Las Vegas placed the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) pilot fourth in the playoff standings with a healthy 36-point buffer over 13th-place Ryan Newman. The 16-driver playoff field gets whittled down to 12 drivers after the third playoff race Sept. 29 on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway “roval” course. Only those drivers with a win or a top-12 spot in points get to continue their championship pursuit.
Back to Busch’s Richmond record – four of his six career 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. 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.
So, as the series heads back to the “Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia” for the Richmond track’s new spot as the second playoff race, Busch and the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread team look to bring home their seventh career win there. Whether or not they make it back to victory lane, history has shown they’ll have the driver and team everyone will be on the lookout for with the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs in full swing.