|Kyle Busch returns home for this weekend's Kobalt 400|
HE’S COMING HOME: Camry driver Kyle Busch heads to his hometown of Las Vegas as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) points leader after earning third-place results in the season’s first two events. The defending series champion also earned his first NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) victory of the season last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch became the only NSCS driver from Nevada to win at the 1.5-mile track when he drove his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 M&M’s Camry to victory lane in March 2009 after starting from the pole. He last visited Las Vegas in December, when the series celebrated his first, Toyota’s first and sponsor M&M’s first NSCS championship.
CLOSE TO COLORADO: New Camry team Furniture Row Racing (FRR) is based in Denver, Colorado, just 750 miles northeast of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and one of the closest events to the team’s headquarters. TRD (Toyota Racing Development), U.S.A., builds the team’s engines in Costa Mesa, California and FRR has a technical alliance with fellow Toyota team JGR, based in Huntersville, N.C. Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. sits second in NSCS driver points after finishing runner-up at Daytona and seventh at Atlanta. Last year, Truex earned a career-best result at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track with a second-place finish and only has one finish outside the top-20 in 10 starts at the race track.
NASCAR GOES WEST: The NSCS and NXS teams head west for the first of three-straight races on the West Coast. With the long distance between the Charlotte-area race shops and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2,200 miles), Phoenix International Raceway (2,060 miles) and California’s Auto Club Speedway (2,370 miles), some teams, like Joe Gibbs Racing, will elect to keep their primary team transporters for Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlinand Matt Kenseth on the West Coast. A secondary transporter with just Camry race cars travels back and forth between the races to swap out cars. The three tracks are each unique from one another – Las Vegas is 1.5-miles with progressive 20-degree banking, Phoenix is a one-mile flat track with 9 to 11-degree banking and California is a two-mile, D-shaped oval with 14-degree banking.
NOTES & QUOTES
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS): Camry drivers Kyle Busch (first), Martin Truex Jr. (second), Carl Edwards (fourth) and Denny Hamlin (fifth) currently rank in the top-10 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) point standings … In addition to Busch’s hometown victory in 2009, Kenseth earned the Camry’s 50th series win with his 2013 triumph at Las Vegas … Kenseth has the most top-five results (six), top-10 finishes (nine) and laps led (516) of active drivers at Las Vegas.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
With two third-place finishes to start the season, what are your thoughts heading back to Las Vegas this weekend?
“It’s much different than Atlanta last weekend, even though both tracks are the same size. Vegas is really grippy with the tire being a little harder compound and you’ve got really good speed, but then in the race it gets sunny and can get loose and slick. Once you get your car handling good, you still have a lot of speed and don’t fall off at places like Atlanta and Texas. I was fortunate enough to win there in 2009, but we haven’t run to my liking there overall, so I’m hoping we can have a strong run there this weekend with our M&M’S Camry and keep the M&M’S 75th anniversary year rolling. I’m hoping we can give everyone something to cheer for this weekend, especially since I wasn’t able to race there last year because of my injury."
Is there more pressure racing at your hometown track?
“Yeah, Vegas always means a little bit more pressure – more pressure on myself – just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there. Thankfully, I have won there and I’ve knocked that one off the list, but certainly you want to win there every year. It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most there, but I love Vegas, the atmosphere and everything going on around that place. It’s always been a big race for us and the M&M’S team."
|Denny Hamlin looks to rebound from a tough weekend in Atlanta|
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are the team’s goals and objectives heading into Las Vegas this weekend?
“The win in Daytona certainly affords us the opportunity to work and try some things on the intermediate and short tracks, and after Atlanta, it’s nice to know that we have time to work on things and try to dial in this new package a little bit more. NASCAR is giving teams the chance to test on Thursday at Las Vegas and that’s a good chance for us to put down some laps on a track that has a lot of the same characteristics as other mile and a half racetracks on the circuit. It will be good to get back into the normal race week routine and go for another win on Sunday."
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What would a win this early in the season mean to you?
“We have had two solid runs to start the season and we head to Vegas with the new downforce package which was a lot of fun in Atlanta. We get to work on a bunch of things in the test sessions. It is always fun to go to Vegas. A lot of fans travel out there from all over, it’s a fun venue and it’s a great race track. We have ARRIS on board – we’ve had a lot of fun with them so far this year and want to get a win and lock ourselves into the Chase. I think this will be the real test to this new package with the newer pavement and higher speeds and hopefully it’s a success."
|The new alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing has Martin Truex smiling|
MARTIN TRUEX, No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Do you have a new strategy for 2016?
“I don’t think we’ll really do anything differently. I think there was a few areas we felt like we needed to be better in – a few areas where we felt like we could be stronger and a lot of that stuff is on the technical side and the car side and certainly being a Toyota team and our relationship with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), we feel like – Cole (Pearn, crew chief) feels like we’re stronger in every area than we were last year and that’s something in the off-season that we were looking forward to. He feels really good about where we are on that side of things and he feels good and I do as well."
Are you looking forward to some of these West Coast races?
“Las Vegas will be as wild and slippery ride as it was in Atlanta. It’s a fast track where you have to hold down the throttle for a long time. The track is getting back to where it was before it was repaved. The groove is getting wide and the guys are moving around quite a bit, but it’s still really bumpy in turns 1 and 2. The West Coast swing is usually good and it’s about the only time of the year our guys are on the plus side for sleep. They really enjoy racing somewhat close to home."
NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS): Camry drivers Daniel Suarez (second), Erik Jones (11th) and Dakoda Armstrong (13th) currently rank in the top-15 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) point standings … Jones won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas in 2014 … Toyota drivers have four NXS runner-up results at Vegas – Kyle Busch in 2013 and 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2010 and Mark Martin in 2012.
|Erik Jones' 2015 Las Vegas race ended with a crash|
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Is it win or bust every week now with the Chase format?
“You have the driver’s championship that’s decided by the Chase, but the owner’s championship is decided by points format, so I think that the true judge of teams honestly is going to be somewhat the owner’s points. Hopefully we can get the win knocked out of the way and get in the Chase and then we’ll be racing for wins every week and watching to see where the owner’s points are stacking up. You need something to keep you motivated and I think that’s what’s going to keep us motivated."
DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you looking forward to racing at Las Vegas this weekend?
“I’m really looking forward to getting to Las Vegas and continuing the momentum we have built to start the season. I was pleased with the way we performed at our first mile-and-a-half track last weekend and hopefully that will carry over to Saturday. Our communication as a team has gotten better each week, and I can’t wait to see how we do on this first leg of the West Coast swing."
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS): Tundra drivers Timothy Peters (fourth), Ryan Truex (sixth) and Ben Rhodes (eighth) currently rank in the top-10 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) point standings … The NCWTS takes the next several weeks off, returning to action at Martinsville Speedway on April 2.