Halloween is right around the corner and, as has been typical for Kyle Busch the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the colorful candymaker will yet again go racing with a special Halloween scheme Sunday afternoon at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to celebrate M&M’S Halloween fun packs leading into the big day next week.
Along with his favorite chocolate candies, Busch is looking for something else to add to his Halloween treat bag following Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville, and that’s the traditional Martinsville clock trophy for winning at NASCAR’s shortest track. While the clock may be way too big for his treat bag, a win would be quite the treat as it would automatically qualify him for the season-ending Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway three weeks hence. Busch knows the feeling well as he won at Martinsville last October, sending him to the Homestead finale and allowing him and his team to focus on the last race of the season a few weeks early.
The spooky-looking M&M’S scheme will race three days before Halloween at a place that used to challenge Busch earlier in his career, and early on in his 11-year tenure with JGR. Busch finished outside the top-10 in three of his first four Martinsville races with JGR in 2008 and 2009. By contrast, Busch has scored eight top-five finishes in his last 11 starts there, with a worst finish of 15th.
The beginning of the recent success at Martinsville for Busch and the M&M’s team is the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s first career win at the paperclip-shaped oval 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 en route to victory lane, along with the win last October where he took the lead late.
With just four races left in the season, and with the series kicking off the Round of 8 of the 2018 playoffs at Martinsville this weekend, Busch knows a repeat performance from last October could go a long way in his efforts to bring home his second Cup Series championship for the M&M’S team.
All season long, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team have not been ones to back down from a challenge. He was able to cruise through the first two playoff rounds, most recently with a solid runner-up finish in Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Now that he’s made it to the final eight, Busch feels he has just as good a shot as anyone to win his second Cup Series title.
So as the season heads into the homestretch, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team know that, when it comes to being championship-eligible at Homestead, they’ll hope to take advantage of the confidence built during the last several years at Martinsville. Since he already conquered the .526-mile short track in Southern Virginia just last year, Busch hopes in addition to an M&M’S treat and the traditional Grandfather clock to add to his treat bag, a punched ticket to the championship race in Homestead will be waiting for him at the end of Sunday’s 500-lap race, as well.