'Unsquaring' the Tricky Triangle
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 25, 2017) – Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, is nicknamed “Tricky Triangle” for a reason. The only three-turn track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit presents drivers and crew chiefs with the most unique setup challenges in their efforts to get their racecars to make it around the 2.5-mile circuit quickly and efficiently.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads into Sunday’s Overton’s 400 NASCAR Cup Series race hoping that the return of M&M’S Caramel scheme this week will be just what he needs to render the Tricky Triangle “unsquared.”
Pocono is one of only two tracks where Busch has yet to score a points-paying win in NASCAR’s top series, with the other being Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. When the Cup Series last visited Pocono just seven weeks ago, Busch looked as if he might finally be able to cross another track off his list. After leading five times for a race-high 100 laps, a caution late in the race put the No. 18 team in a tough position. As the leader, a decision had to be made whether to come to pit road for tires. If Busch did, all behind him would likely do the opposite. The team elected to stay out while most of the rest of the field pitted, and Busch ultimately could not hold off eventual winner Ryan Blaney on fresh tires. While disappointing, Busch and team know they had the best car at Pocono that day, which no doubt gives them encouragement that they can bring home a win this weekend.
Busch will find plenty of encouragement this week during his usual pre-Pocono visit to Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. headquarters in Hackettstown, New Jersey. There, the M&M’S Caramel driver will have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Mars Wrigley associates, and many of those same associates will make the one-hour drive to Pocono Sunday to cheer for Busch and his M&M’S Caramel Toyota.
On the heels of Busch’s headquarters visit, this weekend’s race will also recognize the return M&M’S Caramel, which could arguably be the biggest innovation in M&M’S history as it took years to develop the technology and machines required to get the soft caramel ingredient into the signature hard candy shell. Gone are the days of the square-shaped, square-wrapped caramel candies – M&M’S has updated one of the most popular flavors by covering soft caramel in a delicious, candy-coated shell. Starting with Sunday’s Overton’s 400, Busch is scheduled to sport the new M&M’S Caramel colors at 11 more Cup Series races during the summer and fall. The scheme brought good fortune in its first race as Busch drove the colors to an All-Star non-points-race win at Charlotte in May.
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 and Pocono master Denny Hamlin, who has four wins to his credit at the Tricky Triangle. In August 2011, Busch led 27 laps late in the race before equaling his career-best Pocono finish of second behind race-winner Brad Keselowski. While he brought home top-10 finishes in both 2013 races at Pocono, Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team are striving for even bigger things at the 2.5-mile track after running well the last two years but not getting the finishes they deserved, much like this year’s first race there in June.
So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S Caramel team will hope to unsquare the triangle for the first time and check off another accomplishment during his impressive career.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You’ve come close to winning at Pocono the last several years. Have you improved there over the years?
“I think I’ve been a bit inconsistent or streaky there over the years. Started off early in my career with some top-five finishes and then went through a stretch where we weren’t very good. Lately, we’ve certainly been better there and I’ve had some second-place finishes and third-place finishes, so I feel like I’ve figured it out better there lately. With the way our cars at JGR have been overall and how well we ran there in June, I’m very optimistic that we will have a shot to win on Sunday in our M&M’S Caramel Camry. That scheme seemed to be good luck at the All-Star Race and we’re hoping it might bring us some good fortune this weekend, as well. We just have to try to be as mistake-free as possible and hope things fall our way, finally. ”
Do you feel like this year is the opposite of last year with Joe Gibbs Racing fighting for playoff spots?
“I wouldn’t say we’ve struggled. We’ve led plenty of laps this year. We’ve been in plenty of positions to win. We don’t have the win numbers to show for that but, as far as it goes, I mean, I’d like to say that the answer is yes – that we’re just not showing all of our cards or the luck bank isn’t showing us all of our luck, yet. I don’t know what it is but, if that’s what the swing is going to be, is that they’re going to punish you in the beginning part of the year or you can win races there in order to reward you at the end to the year, I would certainly take that. We just have to see how it plays out. We’ll keep working hard like we’ve been and we feel like eventually good things will happen.”
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, last year, 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.”
With you running out of fuel in July 2015, does that enter your mind as you head back to Pocono?
“I think when you run well there and have a shot to win and you run out of fuel or strategy with tires and cautions just don’t work out for you, when you head back there, you still have the same mindset that you have a shot to win there just like before. I would definitely like to win a race there and, last year having such a good car, I certainly have figured out how to drive the track, so eventually I think we’ll get that win there when you keep bringing back good cars like the M&M’S Caramel guys have been.”
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 Overton’s 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway will mark Kyle Busch’s 447th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 26th NASCAR Cup Series start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Busch has no wins, four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s and has led a total of 186 laps in 25 career Cup Series starts at Pocono. Busch’s average Pocono finish is 18.2.
- 13,000: After leading 100 laps at Pocono last month, Busch bested the 13,000 mark in laps led in NASCAR’s top series. With his current 13,396 Cup Series laps led, Busch is just the 11th driver to best the 13,000 mark.