As the NASCAR Cup Series is heading into its 16th consecutive weekend of racing, competitors are headed west to Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350k. For good reason, many drivers and team personnel are looking forward to the one and only off weekend that follows the race at Sonoma. And what better way to springboard into the lone off weekend of the Cup Series’ grueling 36-race schedule than with a win at Sonoma.
Before the series break commences, NASCAR’s top series gets its second road-course test of the season as it heads to Northern California’s Wine Country.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is on the record as someone who really enjoys making right and left turns on the road courses. To him, road courses feels like somewhat of a vacation as they are a vast departure from the ovals that make up the majority of the schedule, even with many more road courses on the schedule than there were early in his career.
The 1.99-mile Sonoma circuit is one of numerous road courses where Busch has won as he has evolved into a constant threat to win on them each year. His Sonoma wins came in 2008 and 2015. Today, road-course racing has taken on even more importance on the Cup Series calendar the past couple of seasons with the addition of Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grand prix circuit joining the traditional stops at Sonoma, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. With the recently added road-course races, it’s more important than ever to have a strong driver and team that can turn left and right.
While his road-course success is well documented, Busch’s most memorable road-course win was the 2015 Sonoma event. After sitting out the first 11 NASCAR Cup Series races that season because of injury, Busch and the M&M’S team had 15 races to meet two requirements in order to make the 2015 playoffs. He needed to have at least one victory, and he needed to make finish the regular season among the top-30 in driver points.
Busch’s Sonoma race that year was a turning point in his season as he snuck past seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson on a late-race restart to bring home the win, thought to be an unlikely one as he had to deal with all the shifting and footwork that is required on the tight, twisty road course while still recovering from his injuries. It started a remarkable streak of four wins in five weeks, including three in a row at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, and the season culminated with his first Cup Series championship.
Just 15 races into the 2022 season, Busch is already starting to put together another championship-worthy effort. In addition to his win on the dirt surface at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway back in April, Busch and the M&M’S Crunchy Cookie team have been incredibly consistent of late, racking up six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s, which also includes a finish no worse than third over the past three races and narrowly missing out on another win last weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.
M&M’S Crunchy Cookie will once again be adorning Busch’s No. 18 Toyota at Sonoma on Sunday. M&M’S Crunchy Cookie combines two favorite treats – M&M’S and chocolate chip cookies – and is now available nationwide. It’s bound to give race fans a fun, nostalgic snack to enjoy during this weekend’s race.
So, as the Cup Series heads to its annual stop in Wine Country, Busch looks to continue his strong recent form during this weekend’s “racing vacation” on the Sonoma road course, hoping it leads to more success throughout the summer.
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