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.