Friday, Sep 29

Kyle Busch Home Cookin'

The last time Kyle Busch visited Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the laps were winding down during its 400-mile NASCAR Cup Series race in March, and it looked like the Las Vegas native was on his way to his second Cup Series win at his hometown track. But a caution as he was leading the field to the white flag sent Busch and the lead pack to the pits for tires. Busch took four while others gambled with two-tire stops and exited pit lane ahead of him. Busch was unable to regain the lead during the green-white-checkered finish and had to settle for a fourth-place finish on a day that looked to be his.


The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry TRD for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) returns to Las Vegas this weekend hoping he can repeat his strong run from the spring there, but this time he hopes to be the one celebrating in victory lane in his old stomping grounds following Sunday’s South Point 400.


Aside from NASCAR’s biggest events like the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, a win at the hometown racetrack is always high on the priority list for most Cup Series drivers. Busch crossed that all-important hometown win off his list when he won in just his fifth Las Vegas Cup Series start in 2009.


The 2002 honors graduate of Durango High School in Las Vegas would like to double his number of Cup Series wins at the desert track after having brought home that emotional first win there 13 years ago.


Driving the yellow M&M’S Toyota that day, Busch qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field because the team needed to make an engine change during Friday practice. Unfazed, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’S team worked their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. He went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.


While Busch has NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in 2016 and 2019 and Camping World Truck Series wins in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to go with his 2009 Cup Series win on the 1.5-mile oval, he already was no stranger to winning on Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the Bullring, which existed for several years before the NASCAR track was built. When Busch moved up to Late Models, his winning ways continued with 10 victories at the Bullring in 2001.


So as the series heads back to Las Vegas for the second time this season with just four races remaining in the marathon Cup Series schedule, Busch hopes to use some home cooking to earn another win at his hometown track.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 


Is there more pressure to go out there and win at your hometown track than anywhere else?


“I used to put more stress on myself to win there, no doubt. I never knew if winning there would happen for me and it’s neat I’ve been able to win in all three series at Vegas. There is stress going into those events. For myself, I was able to get that done in 2009 there at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to get into victory lane. That felt good. To be able to go back there years after and go out there and race, and not have to worry about the stress of winning that race, you still want to win. We want to win every single one of them. That’s a fact. Overall, when you come into your hometown, and we watched the track get built from nothing, it means that much more to you and it would be great if we could get back to victory lane this weekend with our M&M’S Camry. We were so close there in the spring and things just didn’t work out in our favor, unfortunately.”


Being from Las Vegas, is there always more pressure to perform when you’re at that racetrack?  


“Yeah, certainly, you always want to do well. I’ve won that race before and just the huge sense of relief that kind of comes off your shoulders when you’re able to do that and win at your home track. It was pretty awesome. Kurt (Busch) was just able to finally get it done a few years ago, so that was really awesome to see. I remember mine. It’s been a long time. Back at that time, it felt like winning the Daytona 500. I hadn’t won as many big races as I have now, or won as often as I have now. So a lot of guys look at the Daytona 500, everybody puts extra emphasis on the Daytona 500 because it is our sport’s biggest race, right? Then you’ve got the guys who all go to their home tracks, and those guys put extra emphasis on their home track and they want to do well there. So it’s just kind of that same philosophy, I think.” 


What does it mean to your family to race in Las Vegas again?


“It’s cool to be able to come back home and to have the notoriety, I guess, that we have now. When we went out there back in those days, there were many other drivers who were way bigger than us and way more popular than us. Now that we’ve been here for a while and those other drivers aren’t there anymore, we’ve kind of upped ourselves on the ladder of that and it’s cool. One of these days, hopefully, there might be a road out there named after us, or a grandstand or something of that nature. Don’t get too far ahead of yourselves because that just means I get closer to retirement if they start doing that, I guess.”


What was it like to bring home a Cup Series win in your hometown in 2009?


“It was cool. To go out there and to run a smooth race and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen.”


What is your fondest racing memory of growing up in Las Vegas?


“My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that is definitely a great memory to have.”




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