After first signing on as a team sponsor with the No. 8 Stavola Brothers entry in 1990 with its SNICKERS brand, Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S. has had an impressive and longstanding relationship with NASCAR racing.
As the sport prepares to celebrate its history with the annual “Throwback Weekend” at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Mars is proud to bring back one of its most memorable schemes from its early days – Ernie Irvan’s 1998 Skittles racecar – that will adorn Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Skittles Toyota retro scheme during Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
After a successful introduction, Mars expanded the presence of its SKITTLES® brand within the sport by joining MB2 Motorsports and driver Derrike Cope as sponsor of the No. 36 entry for the 1997 season for one season. With Irvan taking over the driving duties of the SKITTLES® car in 1998, he brought Mars its first pole position by clinching the top starting spot at the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Later that season, Irvan and MB2 helped launch Wild Berry SKITTLES®, in addition to the now memorable paint scheme that will be brought back this weekend at Darlington.
Fast forward 20 years later to this weekend’s event, Mars Wrigley and its associated brands are having an exceptional year with Busch and his No. 18 Skittles Toyota for JGR during a season that thus far has yielded six wins and features Busch with a 43-point lead atop the driver standings with just two races remaining in the regular season.
The Skittles driver has conquered Darlington before, having brought home a Cup Series win at “The Track Too Tough to Tame” in May 2008. His first victory at Darlington earned him the distinction of being the youngest Cup Series winner – at 23 years of age – in the track’s storied history. Busch also has two Xfinity Series wins at Darlington, coming in May 2011 and 2013.
Starting in 1950, the traditional Southern 500 at Darlington was held every Labor Day weekend. In 2004, the race was moved to the penultimate race of the season during the first year of NASCAR’s playoffs before it was eventually moved in 2009 to the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, when the Southern 500 name was brought back. In 2015, the race returned to its rightful and traditional spot on the calendar after a 12-year hiatus. Sunday night’s race will mark the 58th time NASCAR’s top series will race in Darlington on Labor Day weekend.
So, as Busch returns to “The Lady in Black” to compete in Sunday’s traditional Southern 500, he and the Skittles team look to bring home their second win in what many consider to be one of NASCAR’s crown jewel races, as Busch and the Skittles team look to take a trip down memory lane and end up in victory lane before all is said and done.
NOTE: You can view the Skittles 1998 Retro video here.