This Sunday is a notable day for Kyle Busch for a couple of reasons. Of course, Busch’s main focus is on that afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the Xfinity 500 a Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
But the 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 the day before this year’s “All Hallows’ Eve” celebration. Fittingly, Busch’s racecar will sport the colorful candymaker’s special scheme en homage to its 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 on the half-mile, paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval – the track’s iconic grandfather clock trophy.
The spooky-looking M&M’S scheme will race on Halloween at a place that was particularly challenging for Busch at the start of his career and the initial part of his 15-year tenure with JGR, which will wrap up at the end of this season. Busch finished outside the top-10 in three of his first four Martinsville races with JGR in 2008 and 2009. Since then, he’s scored 13 top-five finishes there and looks to add a 14th and final Martinsville top-five with JGR Sunday – ideally in victory lane.
The turning point for Busch and the M&M’S team at Martinsville came with the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s first career win there 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. He added a second win there the following year.
So, as the Cup Series heads to the penultimate race of the season this weekend, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team hope the confidence they’ve built at Martinsville in recent years translates to yet another grandfather clock, just in “time” for Halloween.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
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. Hoping we can get up front and stay there and have a shot at the win with our M&M’S Halloween Camry TRD.”
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 is challenging. I know there have been a couple of tests there to keep working on these cars with different tire compounds and other things, so hopefully we can put on a good show there this weekend.”
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.”