Trick or Treat
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 26, 2021) – This Sunday is a notable day for Kyle Busch for a couple of reasons. Of course, Busch’s main focus is on Sunday’s Xfinity 500 NASCAR Cup Series race a Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will also use the opportunity to celebrate Halloween as the race happens to fall on Oct. 31, when he will sport the colorful candymaker’s special scheme for the second weekend in a row in celebration of M&M’S Halloween fun packs.
Along with his favorite chocolate candies, Busch is looking for something else to add to his Halloween treat bag following Sunday’s race at Martinsville, and that’s the traditional Martinsville grandfather clock trophy for winning at NASCAR’s shortest track. While the clock may be way too big for his treat bag, a win would be quite the treat as it would automatically qualify him for the season-ending Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway next weekend. Busch knows the feeling well as he won at Martinsville in October 2017, qualifying him for the winner-take-all playoff finale. He currently sits fourth in the standings, just one point above the top-four cutline, heading into the final race of the Round of 8 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs.
The spooky-looking M&M’S scheme will race on Halloween at a place that used to challenge Busch at the start of his career, and in the early part of his 14-year tenure with JGR. Busch finished outside the top-10 in three of his first four Martinsville races with JGR in 2008 and 2009. Since then, Busch has scored 12 top-five finishes there and he hopes a 13th top-five with JGR Sunday will continue his championship hopes.
The beginning of the recent success at Martinsville for Busch and the M&M’s team came with the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s first career win at the paperclip-shaped oval in April 2016. Not only did he bring home his first Martinsville clock, he did it in dominating fashion, leading five times for a race-high 352 laps en route to victory lane. He added a second career win there in 2017.
All season long, Busch and his team have never backed down from a challenge. Two brushes with the wall last Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City led to a disappointing 28th-place finish. Even with that result, Busch sits in the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 in a very tight battle where fourth through seventh in the standings are separated by just seven points. Only Kyle Larson – who won the first two races in the Round of 8 – is locked into the Championship 4 next weekend, leaving three spots at Phoenix up for grabs at Martinsville.
This year M&M’S is bringing Halloween celebrations to communities around the country, partnering with organizations such as Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte, and providing activities, costumes and, most importantly, candy for the families they work with. Busch and some of his No. 18 team spent time packing a race-themed package for kids at the Boys & Girls Club, which of course included some M&M’S candy for the Halloween celebration.
So, as the season heads into the homestretch, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team know that, when it comes to being championship-eligible at Phoenix, they’ll need to take advantage of the confidence they’ve built at Martinsville since 2015. Buoyed by already having conquered the .526-mile short track in Southern Virginia multiple times in recent years, Busch hopes to add a punched ticket to the championship race at Phoenix to his treat bag by the end of Sunday’s 500-lap marathon, in addition to M&M’S goodies and the traditional grandfather clock, of course.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel about your position just above the cutline heading to Martinsville?
“I was expecting much worse with how our race went at Kansas. We still have a decent shot, but it’s just going to be tough. Just going to be a hard-fought fight for that final spot with our M&M’S Halloween Camry. You don’t necessarily have to win, but certainly we are going to have to work hard to get up front and stay up there, get as many stage points as possible and see where things shake out. Whether we can get a top-five or even a win, we’ll see.”
What is the key to you getting a win at Martinsville?
“It’s a tough racetrack and, any time you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”
What’s unique about Martinsville that makes for good racing there?
“Typically, you are off the throttle more than you are on the throttle at Martinsville, so your time is lost or made when you are off the gas. That lends itself to guys dive-bombing and making moves and being light on the brake and running into the back of guys, or rooting them out of the bottom and getting them shuffled back. The more that track becomes a bottom feeder-type racetrack and you can go and get a guy shuffled out, there’s no worry to you because he can’t get back in line. If he goes back five spots, then you have that cushion again. There are all kinds of different ways Martinsville has always put on really good and exciting racing.”
Your racecar is sporting the special M&M’s Halloween paint scheme this week. What was your favorite Halloween costume that you wore as a kid?
“Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year, I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was a kid.”
Growing up in Las Vegas, what do you remember about Halloween and trick-or-treating?
“It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone’s house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn’t be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home.”