In the world of professional sports, getting to play a home game on your turf usually turns out to be an advantage.
While Las Vegas native Kyle Busch has lived near the NASCAR epicenter of Charlotte, N.C., for quite some time, he’ll still think of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as a home game in his quest to score his first win of the young season.
Busch, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), returns home for the 267-lap event around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas tri-oval. Having tasted victory at his hometown racetrack in the 2009 Sprint Cup race, Busch and the No. 18 M&M’s team know first-hand the kind of luck, coupled with the usual abundance of hard work, they’ll need to come up with a winning hand once again Sunday.
The 2009 victory was monumental for Busch and the No. 18 team, to say the least.
Busch, a 2002 honors graduate of Las Vegas’ Durango High School, qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field because the team needed to change engines 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. Busch 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.
That win was special. But Busch already was no stranger to winning on the grounds of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the facility’s “Bullring,” which existed for several years before the 1.5-mile oval was built. Busch eventually moved up to Late Model Stock cars, and his winning ways continued as he captured 10 victories in Late Model competition at the Bullring in 2001.
With disappointing finishes of 34th and 23rd, respectively, during the first two races of the season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, Busch will look to capitalize on his home-track advantage this weekend and point his season in the right direction.