HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (May 28, 2019) – With Memorial Day weekend in the rearview mirror, the summer stretch of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is officially at hand as the series heads to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for Sunday’s Pocono 400.
Kyle Busch and the No. 18 M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) have already started to heat up for the summer, as Busch is coming off a strong third-place finish in one of NASCAR’s crown jewels – last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
M&M’S Hazelnut Spread, which comes in a bright teal bag, will take to the track again this weekend on Busch’s bright teal No. 18 Toyota after debuting during the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte two weeks ago. M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Chocolate Candies feature a hazelnut spread center covered in delicious milk chocolate, offering a perfect combination of chocolate and hazelnut flavors in every bite-sized piece. It’s a summer snack available at retailers nationwide.
In his most recent start at Pocono last year, Busch brought home his second consecutive July win at the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle.” He’ll look to win his first in the June race at Pocono this weekend. While Pocono proved to be difficult for Busch to master for the first six years of his Cup Series career, he seemed to have turned a corner there starting in June 2011, when he started from the pole – his first at Pocono – and was beaten across the finish line only by teammate Denny Hamlin, who has four wins at the track. Starting with that 2011 season, Busch went on to score 10 top-10 finishes at Pocono after driving to just three top-10s in his first 12 starts there.
As for 2019, Busch, his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski have shown the way during the first 13 races of the season, combining for nine victories with three apiece. Busch and the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread team have also brought home seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s so far during his very hot start to the season in which the Las Vegas native is leading the standings.
So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains for Sunday’s 400-miler, Busch and the entire M&M’S Hazelnut Spread team hope to start the summer stretch of races on the right foot with the newest summer snack on board. They’ll look to add to their impressive list of accomplishments thus far in 2019 and keep their celebrations going through summer and beyond.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How will this package perform at Pocono with a long straightaway and flat corners?
“I’m not sure, exactly. It all depends. It depends on how the weather is up there and how the race plays out, how good the race will be – if it’s cloudy or sunny or whatever, what the track looks like now a year removed since we’ve been there. I think restarts are obviously going to be interesting. You go down the front straightaway and everybody fans out, but some guys push. You know pushing is a big deal now because of how much drag the cars have. When you can put two engines together essentially on one car, that’s what’s happening when you’re pushing because the air over the first car doesn’t have time to go down and hit the rear spoiler. It keeps going straight across both roofs and only hits one rear spoiler. That’s why it’s faster to push. Guys will be doing a heck of a lot more of that. Bump drafting is going to be important down the straightaways and stuff coming out of turn one, going down into turn two. Once it kind of single-files out a little bit, I’m not sure we’ll see a whole lot of difference. As a matter of fact – I’m going to be pessimistic here – it might actually be a tick worse because the wake. With the aero wake that you have from the car in front of you to behind you, I’m thinking turn two right now is going to be a disaster. When you’re trying to close on somebody and you’re making ground up on them in the middle of the corner, and then your car lifts and takes off and goes to the wall and knocks the wall down, there’s nothing you can do to protect that as a driver. That’s what is so frustrating. That’s what happened to me with (Kyle) Larson at the All-Star Race. Like, I had speed on him through the middle of the corner and he washed up a little bit in front of me and my car just found his wake and took off and went to the fence. There’s nothing you can do. People are like, ‘Well, you just drove into the fence,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I meant to do. I drove it in the fence. Exactly. Like no, the air took me into the fence, but whatever.’ It’s a challenge. It’s way bigger now than what it was. We have a run of several races in a row with our M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Camry and we are hoping to bring attention to the great new flavor, overcome some of the things that have gotten us recently, and get the newest flavor of M&M’S into victory lane this weekend.”
How will it change to take the shifting element out of Pocono with the gear change?
“I have no idea. Shifting at Pocono has always kind of been – when we went from shifting to not shifting it didn’t do anything. It didn’t save anybody any money. It didn’t do anything. All it did was reduce gear temps. In my opinion, I think it’s better if you’re able to shift. You can have an opportunity to have different gearing and stuff like that for the betterment of you and different than somebody else that you’re racing around. It might actually help you be able to make moves or passes or whatever but, in all retrospect, it’s probably not much different.”
Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What’s the most difficult part of the track for you?
“The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest – turn three because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8 to 10 mph slower than the guy on your outside and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, and if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch, getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the Tunnel Turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Pocono 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 512th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 29th NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
- Busch has career totals of 54 wins, 31 poles, 190 top-five finishes, 281 top-10s and 16,534 laps led in 511 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came last month at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
- Busch has two wins, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 325 laps in 28 Cup Series starts at Pocono. Busch’s average Pocono finish is 16.4.