Kyle Busch: Yes, Michigan

“Yes, Michigan” became a famous tourism slogan when the Great Lakes State produced a commercial around the theme in 1986 for its 150th birthday.

Fast-forward to some 26 years later and Michigan’s tourism board, Travel Michigan, has flourished with its most recent memorable campaign, “Pure Michigan,” which also happens to be the title sponsor of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

What does this have to do with Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)? Well, the talented 27-year-old hopes he’ll be saying, “Yes, Michigan,” by weekend’s end and that his chances of making this year’s edition of the 10-race, 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship are much more solidified.

After a heartbreaking end to last weekend’s race on the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where Busch got spun from behind while leading on the last lap, the Las Vegas native is looking ahead to Sunday’s 400-miler on the Michigan oval, for which he is the defending race-winner. He’s currently in a five-driver battle for two precious wild-card berths into this year’s Chase with four events remaining before the Chase starts Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The top-10 drivers in the point standings are locked into the Chase. Kasey Kahne currently holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Ryan Newman assumed the 12th-place wild-card spot last weekend by virtue of his April 1 victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway combined with his 13th position in the standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points –Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.

Busch’s win in the Pure Michigan 400 last August was his first Sprint Cup win at the 2-mile oval. He also finished third in the June 2011 race, and led a total of 81 laps in the two events last year. By contrast, in his previous 12 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, he had no wins, one top-five finish and led a total of 88 laps. So, recent history certainly bodes well for Busch’s outlook this weekend.

Including this weekend’s race at Michigan, Busch’s record at the four tracks that comprise the remainder of the Sprint Cup “regular season” is quite impressive. He has a whopping 11 career wins at those four tracks with at least one race win at each. Busch has five career wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and four wins at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway to go with his one win apiece at Michigan and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

So, as Busch heads back to Michigan for the second of two Sprint Cup stops this season, he’ll hope to resurrect the old “Yes, Michigan” tagline as his fate with regard to the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship stays very much alive.