'Unsquaring' the Tricky Triangle

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 24, 2018) – 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 Gander Outdoors 400 NASCAR Cup Series race hoping that the return of the M&M’S Caramel scheme this week will be just what he needs to render the Tricky Triangle “unsquared,” just like he did a year ago this weekend.

After narrowly missing a victory at Pocono in June 2017, Busch returned in late July looking for his first Cup win in the Pocono Mountains. Not only did he bring home his first career Pocono Cup Series win, he did so with smart strategy by crew chief Adam Stevens and smart driving. With other top competitors coming to pit road earlier for fuel and tires during the last run of the race, Stevens elected to leave Busch out longer than the rest of the top cars. While others were faster on newer tires, 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, eventually driving by Kevin Harvick to bring home an impressive first Pocono victory.

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 mark another M&M’S Caramel scheme on the No. 18 Toyota. Debuting in stores last year, M&M’S Caramel was arguably 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 with M&M’S updating one of the most popular flavors by covering soft caramel in a delicious, candy-coated shell. More than a year later, M&M’S Caramel has been so popular that customers have been picking it up at a rapid pace ever since its debut. 

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 second time in as many years as teams head toward the end of summer and into the homestretch of NASCAR’s regular season. 

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

What’s the most important thing to get right at Pocono?

“There are a lot of things you need to get right at Pocono. The biggest thing is just being good in all three corners. It always seems like you have to give up something in one of the turns to get something back in another turn. The bumps in turn two are certainly a challenge. Making sure you can get your car pointed off of turn three to get momentum down that big front straightway. There are a lot of things at Pocono that can lead to a lot of time gain on a lap there.”

What the trickiest part about racing at Pocono?

“Trying to pass people is the trickiest part because it’s so finicky there after getting your car setup by yourself in practice, but also getting it good for the traffic during the race and out-corner guys there. Having a lot of horsepower is important there, as well. Hoping we can have all of those things go right for us this week with our M&M’S Caramel Toyota. We won this race last year with a good car and some good calls by Adam Stevens up on the pit box. Mars Confectionary U.S. is just down the road and I know we will have a lot of Mars associates out at the track rooting us on. We’d like to get another win there in their backyard.”

Why do we see four- and five-wide restarts so often at Pocono? Is it because clean air is so important, or is it because you have the space to do so there?

“It’s because you have the space to do so but, more importantly, it’s about trying to get as many positions as you can at an opportune time, where everyone is bunched up together to gain the most spots in the biggest hurry. Kind of seems, once you get to where you are running, it can be difficult to pass. You get a little single-filed out and strung out and that’s where you are at until you have an opportunity during pit stops or a caution comes out.” 

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.” 

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 Gander Outdoors 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 483rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 28th NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
  • Busch has career totals of 48 wins, 30 poles, 175 top-five finishes, 257 top-10s and 15,365 laps led in 482 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came on July 1 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May.
  • Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led a total of 273 laps in 27 career Cup Series starts at Pocono. Busch’s average Pocono finish is 17.0.