Seeing Double

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (June 23, 2021) – As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend, NASCAR’s top series will be seeing double as it heads to the 2.5-mile triangle in the Pocono Mountains.

For many years, the two annual NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway had been run five to six weeks apart. The tight window in which they’d traditionally been run didn’t give much time between trips to the Pocono Mountains for teams to make drastic changes to their cars.

But when the Cup Series makes this year’s trek to the Poconos, the window of time between Saturday’s Pocono 325 and Sunday’s Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 is less than 24 hours for the second year in a row after last year’s successful doubleheader weekend debut.

The rules require NASCAR Cup Series teams to use the same car in both events, but they’ll be allowed to work on them between races. Following the finish of Saturday’s 130-lap race, the starting lineup for Sunday’s 140-lap event will be set by inverting Saturday’s top-20 finishers, and those finishing 21st through 38th on Saturday starting from those same positions Sunday.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Minis Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), knows he’s fortunate enough to be able to race, and win, for 17 seasons and counting in NASCAR’s top series. Not only has he won 58 races and two Cup Series championships, he’s had his fair share of recent success at the track nicknamed the “Tricky Triangle.” The Las Vegas native won the June 2019 Pocono race and has three wins in his last seven Cup Series starts there.

For the first time ever, a timeless M&M’S favorite – M&M’S Minis – with adorn Busch’s No, 18 Toyota this weekend. M&M’S Minis are a great way to share the delicious, colorful fun of M&M’S with friends and family. M&M’S Minis are perfect to include in baked treats for the same M&M’S taste, mini style.

Busch’s recent fortunes at Pocono began after he narrowly missed a victory in June 2017. He returned for that year’s July race looking for his first Pocono Cup Series win, and he was able to deliver behind some clever strategy as well as his own smart driving. While the top competitors headed to pit road for their final scheduled fuel-and-tire stops late in the race, Busch stayed out longer than the rest. The others were clearly faster on newer tires, but Busch took advantage of a clean track to make up time and, when he was finally called to pit road, he had much fresher tires than his fellow competitors for the closing stages of the race. He eventually drove by Kevin Harvick for his impressive maiden Pocono victory. Since then, Busch has been able to grab Pocono wins in 2018 and 2019 to add to his growing resume at the Tricky Triangle.

So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains, Busch, crew chief Ben Beshore and the entire team will focus on not one but two races with their M&M’S Minis Toyota, hoping to take it a giant step further with a chance to win twice during this weekend’s doubleheader.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Minis Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

What is it about you and your team that make you so good at Pocono Raceway?

“There are certainly a lot of things over the years that we’ve worked on and there are definitely things we’ve fine-tuned on and gotten a lot better at, I think starting in 2013 or 2014, and then we’ve still kept that speed ever since for the most part. We’ve run really well there. It’s a good track for us. I’ve learned a lot from my teammate Denny Hamlin who’s won there, and certainly working with Martin (Truex Jr.) and his guys has also brought on some new, fresh ideas, which help. It’s been a good track for us and hopefully we can carry our M&M’s Minis colors to victory lane there this weekend. Looking forward to having them on board with us and our No. 18 Toyota.”

How do you learn to get better at a track, like you have at Pocono?

“There are so many different ways you can do it. You can look at data, you can look at the driving technique. Talking is kind of the best resource, just being able to ask the guy, ‘Hey, when you do this, why do you do this, or what do you expect when you get into a run and you’re going this far, and tire wear, and how do you get around turn two,’ whatever it might be. Lots of different things there, being teammates with Denny (Hamlin) for this long, it’s lended itself to myself improving at Pocono and Martinsville, places like that, and him improving at places like Bristol and Charlotte from myself. It’s a good take there. And then having Martin (Truex Jr.) now, having him on board, who is really good everywhere, as well, has definitely brought a good basis to our team, as well as having our past teammates like Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards – so it’s been good.”

You make Pocono look easy, but what is still tough about Pocono even for you?

“Every time you go there, it’s a bit different. The bumps change, the characteristics change. Where the bumps are. Are they getting bigger? Are they getting worse? Is there more? That turn-two tunnel turn is always a culprit for the bumps, and the harsh winters up there really change the racetrack. Then, what happens in turn three, where the wind is blowing and stuff like that, is always kind of a convoluted piece to Pocono, and how you get through turn three versus turn one versus two. There are three distinctly different corners, there’s definitely going to be compromise.”

Do you see race two as the same as race one since they are on the same weekend, or will they be different?

“I think you will have to make some changes to your stuff. The first race, there’s only going to be the Truck Series rubber, it’s only 60 laps, so there’s just going to be a little rubber down. Then, we’re going to put a lot of rubber down with our race. Then you’ll have the Xfinity race the next day, and then you’ll have our race. Over the course of all those miles, I think the main similarities between the two days is going to be just that – they’re a day apart rather than a month apart. There’s a difference between the Pocono racetrack when it’s a month apart, but when it’s day one to day two, there are going to be big differences in day one to day two, so you have to take a lot of different things into account.”

What are the most critical adjustments you can make between each race at Pocono?

“Obviously springs, shocks, bars, whatever you can change, all that sort of stuff. Making some adjustments. Knowing how much that track changes in that first race will give you a basis to how much you expect it to change in the second race, barring any weather or other factors. If it’s 68 degrees one day and a 90 degrees on the other, there are going to be some big differences you’re going to want to adjust for and compensate for. Having a good notebook, I think, will certainly help us and our team. I think we could have a good idea of what to do with our M&M’S Minis Toyota.”

Event Overview:

Race #1

● Event: Pocono 325

Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 26

Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway

Layout: 2.5-mile triangle

Laps/Miles: 130 laps/325 miles

●Format: 130 laps, broken into three stages (25 laps/52 laps/53 laps)

● TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Race #2

● Event: Explore the Pocono Mountains 350

● Time/Date: 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 27

Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway

Layout: 2.5-mile triangle

Laps/Miles: 140 laps/350 miles

Format: 140 laps, broken into three stages (30 laps/55 laps/55 laps)

TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Notes of Interest:

Pocono Stats: Busch has three wins, nine top-five finishes and 16 top-10s and has led a total of 462 laps in 32 career Cup Series starts at Pocono. Busch’s average Pocono finish is 16.0.

218 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 219 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at Pocono. Busch has 58 Cup Series wins, 100 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and 61 wins in the Camping World Truck Series.

100: Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville last weekend to score his milestone 100th overall series victory. Busch extended his hold on the overall series win record as the next-closest driver – Mark Martin – won 49 Xfinity Series races during his NASCAR Hall of Fame career.

Triple Double: Busch is set to compete in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race in addition to the doubleheader Cup Series races this weekend.