As the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is set to begin with Speedweeks activities this weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will hope to be “Hanging with Harley” at the conclusion of the 62nd Daytona 500 on Feb. 16.
Who is Harley? Harley, of course, is the iconic Harley J. Earl Trophy that is hoisted each year by the Daytona 500 winner. Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is hoping to finally hang with Harley as he is poised to make his 15th career start in the “Great American Race."
Busch is still searching for his first victory in NASCAR’s season-opening event, which would be one of the biggest accomplishments on his already impressive resume. The important race wins and accomplishments already checked off his list are housed in a large trophy case built at his Kyle Busch Motorsports race shop. The list starts with his two Cup Series championship trophies from 2015 and 2019, along with his wins in crown jewel races starting with the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008, back-to-back Brickyard 400s at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016, his first points-paying Cup Series win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in 2018, and his first All-Star Race victory coming at Charlotte in 2017.
Busch added a few more milestones to an already NASCAR Hall of Fame-worthy career in 2019. Those milestones included his 200th overall NASCAR victory in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and his championship-winning victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, which was the 56th Cup Series win of his career and vaulted him past Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace into ninth place on the all-time series win list.
In addition to achieving his goal of winning his first Daytona 500, Busch has his sights set on back-to-back championships in 2020. For Busch, who with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson are the only active drivers who have won multiple titles, a third championship would put him in even more rarified air. Only nine drivers in the 71-year history of the NASCAR Cup Series have won three or more championships. Busch would love to become the 10th.
In pursuit of his first Daytona 500 win and third championship, the Las Vegas native will be sporting his familiar yellow M&M’S scheme on his No. 18 Toyota starting with NASCAR’s season-opening race. The M&M’S brand will be returning to Busch’s car for its 13th season in 2020, along with other Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S. products highlighted on the car throughout the year, which include a mix of new and also familiar products from the SNICKERS, Skittles and PEDIGREE brands.
The M&M’S Toyota will be on track throughout 2020 Speedweeks, starting with Sunday’s Busch Clash, an exhibition race Busch won in 2012. It will continue through next week’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races. Busch won his Duel qualifying race in 2009, 2013 and 2016. Then, the official NASCAR Cup Series season and official defense of his 2019 championship begin in earnest with the Daytona 500 for Busch, who in addition to his three non-points race wins at Daytona captured his first and only points-paying Cup Series win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July 2008.
So, as Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Camry head back to Daytona for the latest edition of Daytona Speedweeks, his sights will be set on hanging with Harley, as he hopes to add the last important trophy to his collection by becoming the 40th driver to grace the Harley J. Earl Trophy as Daytona 500 champion.