Anyone who has watched the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017 has seen the colorful M&M’S Camry running up front plenty so far this season.
In fact, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has led laps totaling in the double digits in his last six starts in NASCAR’s top series. He’s led 329 total laps in those six races, starting in early May at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway through last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The 2015 Cup Series champion has brought home three top-five finishes and five top-10s in those six races. Within the same timeframe, Busch won the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Despite the All-Star victory, there’s one thing that’s sorely missing for the front-running driver of the M&M’S Caramel Camry, and that is a points-paying win. But if history is any indication, Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway could be the perfect venue to start a winning streak. The M&M’S Caramel scheme has proven to be quite the good luck charm as Busch won the All-Star race in the “unsquaring caramel” scheme’s debut. He’ll try to make it two in a row on the 10-turn road course in Northern California.
One only has to flash back two years to 2015 to see some reasons for encouragement. After sitting out the first 11 NASCAR Cup Series races that season because of injury, Busch and the M&M’S team had 15 races to meet two requirements in order to make the 2015 playoffs. He needed to have at least one victory, and also needed to make it into the top-30 in driver points.
Busch used the Sonoma race that year to turn around his season by sneaking past now seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson on a late-race restart to bring home an unlikely win, considering he had to deal with all the shifting that is required on the road course at Sonoma while still recovering from his injuries. It started a remarkable streak of four wins in five weeks, including three in a row at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 1.99-mile Sonoma circuit was just the latest of numerous road-course wins for Busch, who has turned into a constant threat to win at each of the two road courses on the Cup Series schedule. Before 2008, Busch was never mentioned as a threat to win at either Sonoma or Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. But that all changed shortly after his arrival at JGR at the start of 2008 as he dominated the road-course scene that year, leading 130 of the 202 road-course laps run and capturing victories at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Busch quickly established himself in 2008 as a routine road-course contender and has been in the hunt on road courses ever since. Prior to his 2015 win at Sonoma, Busch led 29 laps en route bringing home his second win at Watkins Glen in August 2013.
So, as the Cup Series heads to its annual stop in Northern California’s Wine Country, and just like he did in 2015, Busch hopes Sonoma is a starting point for another strong summer and a new win streak that could drive him into and through NASCAR’s playoffs this fall.