NASCAR’s Kyle Busch on Kansas Speedway: ‘Kansas has been a good place for our sport’

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No NASCAR driver has celebrated in victory lane at Kansas Speedway more than Kyle Busch. It’s not even close.

Busch has won nine races at Kansas Speedway across all three NASCAR national series _ two Cup, four Xfinity and three trucks _ including a sweep of the Cup and trucks series last May.

That Cup win qualified Busch, the 2015 and 2019 series champion, for the NASCAR post-season, and he can lock in a spot in the Championship Four with a victory in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the second event in the Round of 8.

But it wasn’t easy for the mercurial Busch to master Kansas in the Cup series. Despite his early success in the Xfinity and trucks races at Kansas, he needed 17 starts over 13 years before his first Cup victory at the track in 2016. During those first 13 starts at Kansas, he had eight finishes of 20th or worse.

Eventually, the surface finally started to wear and become more agreeable to Busch’s driving style, and he now has 11 top 10 finishes in his last 13 starts, a streak that at one point included five top fives in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“I struggled there for the longest time to start my career,” said Busch, 36. “Then when they repaved the place (in 2012), I struggled even more.

“Some of it was just getting the place to age a bit from the repave, but we started turning the corner there in 2014. Dave Rogers was my crew chief at the time and he brought something completely different there and it seemed to click, and we got a top-five finish there in the fall that year.

“Everything came together in 2016 for us to be able to win the race, but we’ve also been really consistent there over the last six years or so. Kansas definitely can be a temperature sensitive track, so you definitely have to hit it right and we’ve been able to do that more times than not starting in 2015, and now it’ a place I definitely look forward to going to.”

Busch, who also won at Pocono this season, enters Sunday’s race fourth in the standings, nine points behind second-place Ryan Blaney and eight points above the cutline to advance to the final four. Kyle Larson has already qualified for the championship race based on his win last week at Texas.

Busch picked up a stage win and finished eighth at Texas, which like Kansas is a 1.5-mile layout, so he can take something from that race into Sunday.

“It’s a little bit similar since it’s the 550 (horsepower package), but it’s not going to be as one groove-ish, fighting for the first lane, like it was at Texas,” Busch said. “You are going to be able to widen out and race all over the track, so hopefully that should be a little better, and we can stay up front and have a shot there.”

Busch led just 20 laps in his victory at Kansas in May. He took the lead for good from Kevin Harvick with 11 laps to go and capped his birthday celebration with the weekend sweep. It made for another memorable weekend at Kansas

“Kansas has been a good place for our sport,” Busch said. “You know the crowd, the reception, the racetrack, the community has really built up around the racetrack there over the last 10 years, or so. It’s been a lot of fun to see all that happen and I’m looking forward to the race.

“It’s been a great racetrack for us, lately. We’ve seemed to maybe have figured out the place a little bit better.”

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