LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kyle Busch pulled a yellow M&M’s polo over another shirt before he walked onto the stage to celebrate one more victory as a team owner in the NASCAR Truck Series.
He’s antsy for a fashion makeover -- in the form of new sponsor merchandise -- for 2023.
Busch is down to his final months wearing the M&M’s gear until the shirt gets tossed aside like an old Snickers wrapper. The wait for a new deal with Joe Gibbs Racing dragged on into Pocono Raceway with the two-time Cup champion seemingly no closer to a contract resolution.
M&M Mars, which has sponsored Busch since he joined the Gibbs organization in 2008, is out of NASCAR at the end of the season. Much like a bite into some crispy M&M’s, Busch, JGR and Toyota are feeling the crunch.
“We’re all working as hard as we can, obviously, and the goal hasn’t changed,” Busch said Saturday. “And that goal is for me to be able to continue at Joe Gibbs Racing with Toyota and to have that chance to continue to race for wins and race for championships.”
Thanks to signage around the track, Busch couldn’t ignore what he was losing at the end of the season. Yes, his No. 18 Toyota boasts the familiar candy paint scheme, but Sunday’s Cup race is titled the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 and its logo took over the flagstand. Mars Wrigley’s offices and its plant in Hackettstown, New Jersey, are less than an hour’s drive east of Pocono Raceway
Busch also has to worry about the future of KBM, a wildly successful Truck Series program run out of a 77,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.
“That weighs on me a lot. We’ve got 50-something employees,” at KBM, Busch said. “It’s important for me to continue to keep all of them in mind and all their families and stuff to make sure we get something done that keeps all of that going. It’s a topic point of mine to keep that as much as we can and to keep that place flourishing.”
Gibbs made contract talks sound grim last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, saying “I’m surprised at this point that we haven’t been able to get that finished.” Toyota’s optimism also has fizzled. TRD President David Wilson told NBC Sports this week, “We’re in a bad place right now” and unspecified contingency plans had been considered.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said he didn’t necessarily find it troubling that so late in the season one of the great drivers in the sport can’t land the sponsorship that infuses teams with the big payday largely needed to operate.
“We obviously want Kyle in the race car,” he said. “We want Kyle to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing to the degree that Kyle and coach and the organization can figure that out. He’s a tremendous talent, obviously first-ballot Hall of Famer. We want Kyle around for another decade or however long he wants to race in NASCAR.”
The 37-year-old Busch has 222 wins across NASCAR’s three national series and is the only active Cup driver with multiple championships. Busch has just one win this season, which earned him a playoff spot secured headed into Pocono.
“The best thing right now is to go out there and show everybody that you can still do it, that you can still win, that you can still be competitive,” Busch said.
Meanwhile, big brother Kurt, the 2004 Cup champion, continues to drop hints that next season at 23XI Racing will be his last in NASCAR. Kurt Busch, though, said Saturday “there’s no real game plan just yet” on when he planned to retire.
WDUN will carry live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 from Pocono Raceway at 2 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550, and streaming live on AccessWDUN.
NASCAR Cup Series
Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, PA
M&Ms Fan Appreciation 400 – July 24, 2022
Sunday's Starting Line Up
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota 52.944 169.991
2. 18 Kyle Busch M&Ms Toyota 53.098 169.498
3. 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 53.140 169.364
4. 5 Kyle Larson HendrickCars.com Chevrolet 53.250 169.014
5. 17 Chris Buescher Wyndham Resorts Ford 53.279 168.922
6. 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Duracell Ford 53.457 168.360
7. 23 Bubba Wallace DoorDash Toyota 53.472 168.312
8. 19 Martin Truex, Jr. DeWalt Toyota 53.579 167.976
9. 99 Daniel Suarez CommScope Chevrolet 53.590 167.942
10. 45 Kurt Busch McDonald’s Toyota 0.000 0.000
11. 20 Christopher Bell Rheem Toyota 53.550 168.067
12. 10 Aric Almirola Haas Automation Ford 53.620 167.848
13. 14 Chase Briscoe HighPoint.com Ford 53.655 167.738
14. 22 Joey Logano Verizon Frontline Ford 53.669 167.695
15. 3 Austin Dillon BREZTRI Chevrolet 53.678 167.666
16. 8 Tyler Reddick Sheetz Chevrolet 53.708 167.573
17. 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet 53.834 167.181
18. 24 William Byron RaptorTough.com Chevrolet 53.835 167.177
19. 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Kroger/SweetLeaf Chevrolet 53.878 167.044
20. 2 Austin Cindric # Keystone Light Ford 53.921 166.911
21. 1 Ross Chastain Worldwide Express Chevrolet 53.984 166.716
22. 16 Noah Gragson(i) Gold Fish Casino Slots Chevrolet 54.000 166.667
23. 7 Corey LaJoie WWE SummerSlam on Peacock Chevrolet 54.009 166.639
24. 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Light Apple #BuschTrickyTrivia Ford 54.020 166.605
25. 34 Michael McDowell Fr8Auctions.com Ford 54.049 166.516
26. 6 Brad Keselowski Kohler Generators Ford 54.061 166.479
27. 42 Ty Dillon Big Dog Energy Chevrolet 54.140 166.236
28. 21 Harrison Burton # Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford 54.197 166.061
29. 38 Todd Gilliland # A&W Root Beer Float Ford 54.221 165.987
30. 31 Justin Haley LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 54.440 165.320
31. 77 Josh Bilicki(i) Zeigler Auto/Rich Mar Florist Chevrolet 54.639 164.718
32. 41 Cole Custer HaasTooling.com Ford 54.763 164.345
33. 15 J.J. Yeley(i) Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Ford 54.769 164.327
34. 43 Erik Jones FOCUSfactor Chevrolet 54.816 164.186
35. 78 B.J. McLeod(i) Surface Sunscreen Ford 55.625 161.798
36. 51 Cody Ware Nurtec ODT Ford 56.166 160.239
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series