Saluting the Red, White, and Blue
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (May 26, 2021) – Memorial Day in the United States is a time to remember and honor the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
With that, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway takes on a special meaning for those in the NASCAR community. It will be the annual “600 Miles of Remembrance,” during which each car in the field will carry the name of a fallen soldier on the windshield.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota, has the honor of displaying the name of Pennsylvania Army National Guard Specialist Derek Holland on his windshield during NASCAR’s longest event. Holland, a native of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, tragically lost his life in June 2008 in Afghanistan. Specialist Holland takes on even more meaningful significance to M&M’S and Mars Wrigley as he was nominated by Mars associate Chad Ace. Not only is Ace a Mars associate, he also served in the U.S. military, and Busch and the M&M’S Red, White, and Blue team will thank him for his service by having Holland ride along with them this weekend at Charlotte.
In addition to honoring the fallen soldier, the No. 18 Toyota will feature a patriotic paint scheme that celebrates M&M’S Red, White & Blue Mix that is available for fans to show their patriotic spirit in stores throughout the summer.
As for the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval he’ll be racing on, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success there with 14 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s in his 32 previous Cup Series starts over the past 15-plus seasons. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured nine NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Charlotte – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, both May and October 2013, and May 2020. He also has eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at the track – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
While he had gone to victory lane early and often in the Xfinity and Truck Series, Busch only recently broke through in the Cup Series at Charlotte. His 2017 win in the non-points All-Star Race was his first Cup Series win of any kind at Charlotte. The following year, in 2018, Busch was able to win there again, this time bringing home his first points-paying Cup Series win at the track and adding another crown jewel to his already impressive resume. Even more special, another fallen soldier’s name was able to help Busch on his ride to victory lane. SGT Eric Toth, who lost his life in Iraq in March 2005, adorned his windshield that day.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, Busch will look to bring home his second crown jewel win at Charlotte and, at the same time, honor Specialist Holland and all troops who have given the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who continue to serve America and the Red, White & Blue.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Red, White, and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do you take pride in the way NASCAR handles honoring the military and the national anthem before races?
“Absolutely. We all are patriotic in our own way. NASCAR seems to do it probably the best with the NASCAR Salutes program that we’ve had over the course of the last several years with having the ability to have the fallen soldiers on our racecars for Memorial Day weekend. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to take my soldier’s family to victory lane – the Toth Family with SGT Toth. This year, I get the opportunity to carry around the name of Specialist Holland, so I’m really looking forward to that. There’s a special connection this year with one of the Mars associates who also served our country, who was able to nominate and honor his good friend. I’m also honored to be able to have them as part of our night, and it makes it most special when you’re able to take them to victory lane. So, hopefully, we can do that with our M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Camry. With what we all do on Memorial Day weekend, I feel like we do it the best as a sport. ”
Does the sport still need a 600-mile race like we have Sunday?
“Yes, I think so. Is it a tough race for the drivers? It is a tough race for the drivers. Is it as tough as it once was? Maybe not. Is it (tough) on the cars? No. The cars are way too sophisticated now. I bet you we could probably go 800, maybe even 1,000 miles with a racecar before you’d start to see problems. It’s just a matter of length and attention span, I guess. Some other drivers would probably argue the fact with me that we don’t need a 600-mile race, but it’s tradition. I think it’s history. I think you keep some of those that have been the longer ones, that have meant more to our sport over the years like the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500. Those probably could stay the length that they are and many of the others could probably change.”
Does Sunday’s 600-mile race feel different than other events?
“It depends on what kind of car you have. I’ve been in races in the 600-mile race where it’s felt really easy and short, and I’ve been in races where it’s been a long, drawn-out, knock ’em, sock ’em kind of day. Hopefully, Ben Beshore (crew chief) and the guys can bring a really good M&M’S Red, White & Blue Camry for me this weekend and it will be a smooth race for us. I like running the 600 miles. I think it brings a different aspect to our sport – its longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring. Whatever.’ Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and the history that we’ve had on Memorial Day weekend for a long time that you run that extra hundred miles. And car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You’ll have fatigue, sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. So, if you don’t show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good. ”
You’ve always said that Charlotte is one of your favorite tracks. Is there any particular reason why?
“Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Xfinity Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. In Cup, We finally got to win the All-Star race there and then the 600, but would like to be a multi-time 600 winner, too. That’s what we’ll shoot for this weekend.”
If you’re saving your car for the end of the race, is it a struggle for you not to pass during the earlier stages of the long, 600-mile event?
“Yeah, you want to race those guys who are around you all of the time. You think to yourself, ‘There’s a car in front of me. I want to pass that guy.’ That’s what’s in your blood to do. Sometimes, you’ve just got to back off a little bit and kind of let the race play out. You’ve got to get to the end of the final pit stop. Once you get to the final pit stop, then the race is on.”
● Event: Coca-Cola 600 (Round 15 of 36)
● Time/Date: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 30
● Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
● Layout: 1.5-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 400 laps/600 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 100 laps / Stage 2: 100 laps / Stage 3: 100 laps / Final Stage: 100 laps
● TV/Radio: FOX / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest:
● 2018 Dominance: Busch brought home his first Coca-Cola 600 victory in 2018, a day when Busch dominated NASCAR’s longest race. The Las Vegas native led a whopping 377 of the 400 laps to bring home another crown jewel victory during his impressive career.
● Lots of Laps Led: Busch leads all active drivers with 944 laps led in his 16 Coca-Cola 600 starts.
● Red, White, and Blue: The name of U.S. Army Specialist Derek Holland will ride along on the windshield of Busch’s No. 18 M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Holland, a native of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, was nominated by military veteran and Mars associate Chad Ace, who served with Holland before he was tragically killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The bomb, which struck Holland’s Humvee near the town of Zormat, also killed an Air Force major serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and wounded the vehicle’s gunner. Holland, who was 20 years old at the time, was a 2006 graduate of Pen Argyl High School and enlisted in the National Guard during his senior year. He was attached to the 228th Brigade Support Battalion in Bethlehem.
● Laps Led: After leading 12 laps Sunday at the Circuit of Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, Busch eclipsed 18,000 laps led in NASCAR’s top series and currently sits at 18,002 laps led in his impressive career. Busch has the most laps led among active drivers. Next-best among active drivers is Kevin Harvick, who has led 15,604 laps in his career.
● 217 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 217 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at Charlotte. Busch has 58 Cup Series wins, 98 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and 61 wins in the Camping World Truck Series. Most recently, he won last weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at COTA.