When Kyle Busch heads to work in his M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry for Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, he’ll take some inspiration from Mars Associates across the globe who have been hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, just 55 miles away in Topeka, Mars Associates make the same M&M’S Fudge Brownie product featured on Busch’s No. 18 Toyota this week, along with many of their other favorite colorful products.
So as Busch travels to the Midwest for the Cup Series Kansas 400, his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota will feature signatures from 124 Mars associates who are based at the Mars Topeka plant in the backyard of Thursday night’s race. The latest M&M’S creation tastes like freshly baked brownies with its fudgy, chewy center – only there’s no baking necessary.
Busch will hope to record another strong finish at Kansas, a place where he struggled mightily during his first 14 visits. However, looking at his past 10 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Busch has scored seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s, an astounding turnaround from his early years there.
The Kansas oval was built in 2001 and originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns. But it underwent a massive renovation project leading into its October 2012 event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, he had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time, for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.
Feeling snakebit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked Kansas with the hopes that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result and effort was much different than the three previous trips. Instead, they were competitive enough to turn the corner in terms of results.
In the October 2014 Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at Kansas. Again, the 2015 Cup Series champion has never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum kickstarted by his first Kansas top-five has remained to this day. Finally, with the surface starting to wear, Kansas has become a place much more agreeable to Busch’s driving style as he brought home his first victory there in NASCAR’s top series in May 2016, putting an exclamation point on the aforementioned strong runs there.
As he and the Cup Series head to Kansas for Thursday’s race under the lights, Busch will no doubt roll up his sleeves and get to work, just like the many Mars Topeka associates riding along with him for the 400-mile race in hopes of leaving the Heartland of America with his second career Cup Series win there.