Celebrating 75 Years with ‘M’
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 10, 2016) – When it comes to NASCAR, there aren’t many traditions that run more deep than kicking off each new season with Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, which this year culminates Feb. 21 with the 58th running of the Daytona 500.
This year’s Speedweeks is also where another American icon, the M&M’S brand, primary sponsor of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), first takes to the track in its season-long celebration of its 75th anniversary.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the M&M’S brand, Busch’s colorful M&M’s Toyota will bring back the familiar yellow scheme, with a few nods to its rich past, as the driver and the No. 18 team open their title defense in 2016.
During a memorable 2015 season filled with highs and lows, Busch’s year started with the challenge of recovering from a broken right leg and left foot in an accident in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the day before the Daytona 500.
Remarkably, the Las Vegas native not only recovered from the injury much earlier than anticipated, he and his team wrote one of the greatest comeback stories in recent sports history. After missing 11 races due to his injuries, Busch made it back to the track in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, needing to win a race and rally to make it within the top-30 in driver points over the final 15 regular-season races in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
A hot streak during the summer months helped vault Busch into Chase position with four wins in a five-race stretch from late-June through July, including a win in the prestigious Brickyard 400. As a result, Busch was able to lock up a Chase spot by early September. From there, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S team worked their way methodically through the 10-race Chase. They made it to the Championship Four in the winner-take-all season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Busch and M&M’S team muscled their way to the championship by winning the race in dramatic fashion.
Busch marked off two big accomplishments during his magical 2015 season – the Brickyard 400 victory and the Sprint Cup title. He now has his sights set on what every stock car driver dreams of – winning the Daytona 500. After his 10 Daytona 500 starts, Busch is still searching for his first victory in NASCAR’s season-opening event as he looks to add to the crown jewels already on his resume – which also includes a victory in the 2008 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Before the 58th running of the Great American Race next week, the 2016 season will warm up with Saturday night’s non-points Sprint Unlimited, which Busch won in 2012. It continues through next week’s Can-Am Duels qualifying races. Busch won his Duel qualifying race in 2009 and 2013. And, the official Sprint Cup season begins in earnest Feb. 21 with the Daytona 500. In addition to his three non-points race wins at Daytona, Busch captured his first and only Daytona points-paying Sprint Cup win in July 2008.
So, as Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Camry look to start off the 75th anniversary of M&M’S in a positive way at Daytona, he hopes the return of the classic M&M’s yellow paint scheme sparks him to “Celebrate with M” by adding his name as the 37th driver to grace the Harley J. Earl Trophy as Daytona 500 champion.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How did everything that happened last year – your injury, the birth of your son, and coming back to win the championship – change your life?
“There have certainly been some things that have happened to me in my NASCAR career, but none that meant as much to me as 2015 did. I’ve never sustained an injury in a racecar that bad. Then, obviously, the birth of our son, turning 30, and then being able to go out and win a Chase race while still being in the Chase, got to check that one off the list, as well. And, of course, we were able to go out and win our first championship, so certainly a lot of things were happening last year. And, I think a lot of those successes have a lot to do with a lot of great people behind the scenes and many people that you got to see, as well. There was just a lot of determination and hard work all the way around and I feel like I learned a lot of things from that and I probably changed a bit because of it. Last year was great, but we are already focused on what we can do here in 2016.”
M&M’S is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. How are you playing a part in that here in NASCAR this season?
“I think the biggest thing you’ll see is that the racecar is back to yellow, but we have the latest lentils on the car along with some logos and lentils from throughout the history of M&M’S, so I like the look of mixing the old with the new. We are hoping that we can get the car back to victory lane this year again more than once and try to defend our championship from last season.”
Does having a championship on your resume make you feel any different leading into this season?
“I don’t think I’m any different than I was last year before the championship than I am today. I’m just a fierce competitor who wants to go out there and win races and compete for championships. Even though there’s one under my belt, there’s plenty more to achieve. We’ll go out there and fight hard and make sure we can do that week-in and week-out, but also year-in and year-out with this M&M’S team and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. At the same time, I feel like there was the pressure of winning a title lifted off my back. To now be called a Sprint Cup champion is a huge honor to me, no doubt.”
What are some races or things in your career that you’ll hope you can accomplish before your career is over?
“The number one most important thing is trying to win the Daytona 500. After that we will try to win the Coke 600 at Charlotte, or really any Cup race at Charlotte, which I haven’t been able to do, yet. Past that, I would love to win at Martinsville and be able to win one of those Grandfather clocks, and also win at the other tracks I haven’t won at like Kansas and Pocono. Beyond that, I would certainly still like to win 200 overall NASCAR races, but that may be down the line a bit. Those are some of the bucket list things that would be cool to accomplish someday.”
When you came to Daytona in July, you visited the staff at Halifax Medical Center. What did it mean to you to be able to do that and will it be something you think about each time you go to Daytona?
“Going back to Halifax was something that Samantha (Busch, wife) and I wanted to do once we kind of got home from the Charlotte hospital. We were like, ‘Man, they were so awesome there.’ We just kind of reflected on our stay that we had and knew that those people really cared about what they did and cared about their jobs and everything like that. It was a beautiful hospital, as well, and the job all those people did was really wonderful. We just wanted to make them aware of how appreciative we were and that other people should be as appreciative, too. We just wanted to let them know that they’re doing a fantastic job there and they were real receptive and, of course, many of the nurses that were there were the same ones we had while we were there during our stay. It was really cool.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine