When Kyle Busch heads to work in his M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry for Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, he’ll take some inspiration from Mars Associates across the globe who have been hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, just 55 miles away in Topeka, Mars Associates make the same M&M’S Fudge Brownie product featured on Busch’s No. 18 Toyota this week, along with many of their other favorite colorful products.
So as Busch travels to the Midwest for the Cup Series Kansas 400, his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota will feature signatures from 124 Mars associates who are based at the Mars Topeka plant in the backyard of Thursday night’s race. The latest M&M’S creation tastes like freshly baked brownies with its fudgy, chewy center – only there’s no baking necessary.
Busch will hope to record another strong finish at Kansas, a place where he struggled mightily during his first 14 visits. However, looking at his past 10 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Busch has scored seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s, an astounding turnaround from his early years there.
The Kansas oval was built in 2001 and originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns. But it underwent a massive renovation project leading into its October 2012 event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, he had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time, for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.
Feeling snakebit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked Kansas with the hopes that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result and effort was much different than the three previous trips. Instead, they were competitive enough to turn the corner in terms of results.
In the October 2014 Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at Kansas. Again, the 2015 Cup Series champion has never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum kickstarted by his first Kansas top-five has remained to this day. Finally, with the surface starting to wear, Kansas has become a place much more agreeable to Busch’s driving style as he brought home his first victory there in NASCAR’s top series in May 2016, putting an exclamation point on the aforementioned strong runs there.
As he and the Cup Series head to Kansas for Thursday’s race under the lights, Busch will no doubt roll up his sleeves and get to work, just like the many Mars Topeka associates riding along with him for the 400-mile race in hopes of leaving the Heartland of America with his second career Cup Series win there.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are some of the challenges racing at Kansas?
“Going to Kansas, it is a night race, so it is cool to be able to race on Thursday night and get a weekend off after we’ve been going pretty hard since we got back racing in May. It’s really cool with the Mars Topeka associates being on the car this weekend. They’ve been working so hard during the whole pandemic making M&M’S Fudge Brownie and other great treats, I can’t thank them enough for their hard work and support. Would love to get those 124 associates to victory lane on Thursday night, for sure.”
Have you looked forward to racing at Kansas more since you won there?
“I do. Also, I did even the last few times before we won there when we had some really strong runs. We finished in the top-five, I think, six races in a row and we have also been in the top-10 a lot, so it’s a place where we’ve really picked it up. We seemed to have gotten a setup or ahold of that place, I’d say, and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around and we can continue our strong runs and our fast pace of being able to have a shot to win with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota.”
Have you had this kind of season before, feeling, as you say, like you’ve spent the whole year one step behind?
“I think 2014 was really close to this. We struggled super bad when we came out with this new body style, the Gen-6 body style. We were pretty bad as a company at JGR that year. We won one restrictor-plate race that year, that was at California. The rest of us didn’t win at all. That was a frustrating season. Unfortunately, I don’t have a win yet. But it feels just like that year. I don’t know where it’s going. We do have six second-place finishes. I think, four, five, six, whatever the hell it is. We’ve been close a couple of times. Many of the other races we’re getting run into. We’ve had flat tires, gone two laps down, tried to do the right thing and drive it back to pit road, not drive a caution. It penalizes us in the day. Now I understand why those guys do that. Other than that, you get run into by a guy who shouldn’t be pitting on the same pit lap as you, I think, at Talladega. I mean, I can keep going. No point in that. We got to fight harder, do better. That’s all there is to it.”
How did you come out of it in 2014? Did it roll into 2015 before you started to see the benefits of working so hard?
“When we fired off the ’15 season, I was injured. I was watching from home. I was seeing we were still kind of slow. The 11, the 19, the 20, they weren’t quite there yet. Then Martinsville, they all ran really good. When I came back at Charlotte time a few weeks later, it started to kind of click, everybody started to go in the right direction. We won four, five times. Then it seems like Matt (Kenseth) won a couple, Denny (Hamlin) won a couple, Carl (Edwards) won a couple. Started to go there. It took us a good year and a half to get back up to the top of the circle. I don’t know if that’s what we’re on now. I certainly hope not. It’s definitely frustrating. Trust me, it’s not very fun where we’re at. I know everybody is kicking themselves and trying to do all they can to work harder and be smarter.”
M&M’S Fudge Brownie Racing
Race 19 of 36 – Kansas 400 – Kansas
Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry
Teammates: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota Camry.
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kyle Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Adam Stevens
Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio
Car Chief: Nate Bellows
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Spotter: Tony Hirschman
Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Matt Tyrrell
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Front Tire Changer: Cam Waugh
Hometown: Johnstown, Colorado
Jackman: T.J. Ford
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Joe Crossen
Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina
Rear Tire Changer: Jeff Cordero
Hometown: Salem, Connecticut
Notes of Interest:
The Kansas 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 553rd career NASCAR Cup Series start and his 25th Cup Series start at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 208 top-five finishes, 306 top-10s and 17,581 laps led in 552 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, resulting in his second Cup Series championship. Busch’s most recent pole, the 32nd of his career, came in November at Phoenix Raceway.
Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s and has led a total of 328 laps in 24 career Cup Series starts at Kansas. Busch’s average Kansas finish is 16.3.
56 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Homestead in November, the 56th points-paying win of his career, Busch passed NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace for sole possession of ninth place on the all-time win list in NASCAR’s top series. Next up on the list for Busch is eighth-place Dale Earnhardt, who had 76 wins during his Hall of Fame career. With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol in August 2017, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup Series wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Herb Thomas.
All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 52 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Homestead last November.
212 and Counting: Busch enters Kansas with 212 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (56), Xfinity (97) and Truck (58) – following his Truck Series win at Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!