Saluting the Red, White & Blue
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (May 21, 2019) – The last weekend in May always has special meaning to Americans, for whom it is a time to remember and honor the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
For race fans in particular, the weekend is uniquely special in that America’s fallen soldiers are honored in the many festivities surrounding what is widely recognized as the country’s biggest racing weekend of the year. In the United States, the racing day starts at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the iconic Indianapolis 500 and finishes under the lights at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway with the longest race of the Monster Energy NASCAR’s Cup Series season – the Coca-Cola 600. Not only are they famous and historic racing events, but both host many active duty military and both have traditions that honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
With that, a familiar way of honoring fallen soldiers returns with the NASCAR Salutes program over the summer, beginning with this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR Salutes at Charlotte features “600 Miles of Remembrance,” during which each car in the field will carry the name of a fallen soldier on the windshield. Busch has the honor of displaying the name of SGT Dale Griffin on his M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota. Griffin, a native of Terre Haute, Indiana lost his life in Afghanistan in October 2009.
Busch, the defending Coca-Cola 600 winner, unveiled the patriotic paint scheme that will adorn his No. 18 M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry in this year’s race back on May 8 and was honored to be joined by Dona and Gene Griffin, the parents of Army SGT Griffin. Busch hopes that, just like SGT Eric Toth one year ago, he can take SGT Griffin’s name and legacy to victory lane this weekend.
In addition to honoring a fallen soldier, the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry features a patriotic paint scheme itself that celebrates M&M’S Red, White & Blue Mix available at local retailers where the M&M’S brand will help to support America’s troops. For every pack of M&M’S Red, White & Blue Mix purchased between May 1 and Aug. 31, a donation will be made to the USO to help entertain the troops. This is part of the $250,000 that Mars Wrigley Confectionery has pledged to the USO this year.
Busch will look to honor Griffin and all fallen soldiers with a strong run in his patriotic scheme, and he’ll be heading into the 13th points race of the season looking to bring home back-to-back victories in the crown jewel Coca-Cola 600 to follow up his dominant performance from one year ago.
Busch actually broke through in the Cup Series at Charlotte two years ago in the non-points All-Star Race for his first Cup Series win of any kind at the 1.5-mile oval. Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s iconic Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star Race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds, and he finally accomplished that goal with the 2017 All-Star win and last year’s Coca-Cola 600 win, both on the 1.5-mile oval.
In his 29 previous Cup Series starts at Charlotte over the past 13-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success there with 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured eight NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Charlotte – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, and both May and October 2013. He also has eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at the track – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, Busch will look to bring home his second crown jewel win at Charlotte and, at the same time, honor SGT Griffin 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, & 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 ways. NASCAR seems to do it probably the best with the NASCAR Salutes program that we’ve had over the course of the last few years with having the ability to have the fallen soldiers on our racecars for Memorial Day weekend. Last year, 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 SGT Griffin, so I’m really looking forward to that. I met his mom and dad, recently, being able to do a little reveal of my M&M’s Red, White & Blue paint scheme and also having the Griffin name on top of the windshield. I’m 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 what we all do on Memorial Day weekend, I feel like we do it the best. We have huge support from our sponsor, too, with M&M’S making a donation to the USO for every pack of the Red, White & Blue M&M’S sold. I’m proud to be with a company and with a sport that honors our troops the way they do.”
With the 2019 rules package, do you anticipate the Coca-Cola 600 will present more of a physical toll than before?
“Yes, I think so. I think it will because the stresses that we’ve been putting on ourselves through the corners all this year have been harder. Cars have been faster through the mid-corners, so you’re just creating more centrifugal forces and that goes through your body. That’s certainly been higher. The car is relatively – you can hustle it more so you’re up on top of the wheel, I feel like, a little bit more – just trying to get more out of it. When you’re out front leading and the car’s gripped up and good, you can kind of a take a breath, you can kind of take it easy. But whenever you’re trying to run people down or pass people, it gets a bit hairier and crazier. It’s going to be a long race and a long night with 600 miles over typically running 500.”
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, on 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 Brickyard 400, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500. Those probably could stay the length that they are and many of the others could probably change. That’s just, again, my opinion and you know what I think of opinions.”
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, Adam Stevens (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.”
Notes of Interest:
- The Coca-Cola 600 will mark Kyle Busch’s 511th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 30th NASCAR Cup Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
- Busch has career totals of 54 wins, 31 poles, 189 top-five finishes, 280 top-10s and 16,455 laps led in 510 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 one win, 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s and has led a total of 1,370 laps in 29 points-paying Cup Series starts at the Charlotte 1.5-mile oval. Busch’s average Charlotte finish is 15.0.