Kyle Busch is set to return to his hometown this weekend and another sweet piece of Las Vegas will be riding along with him once again.
For the second consecutive year, the craft chocolate division of Mars Wrigley – Henderson, Nevada-made Ethel M Chocolates – will be a primary sponsor of a NASCAR Cup Series car. The hometown duo has teamed up for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Ethel M Chocolates, maker of handcrafted chocolates in the Nevada desert, will serve as primary sponsor of Busch’s No. 18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
Ethel M Chocolates is a marquis offering, manufactured by Mars Wrigley North America and dedicated to creating premium chocolates with fresh ingredients and no artificial preservatives.
Busch is focused on getting back to victory lane at Las Vegas after crossing an all-important hometown win of his checklist in 2009 in just his fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at his hometown track. He’s just missed out on a few other Las Vegas wins since then. This weekend, Busch looks to bring home career Cup Series win No. 60 to add to his growing list of accomplishments.
The 2002 honors graduate of Durango High School in Las Vegas would like to double his number of Cup Series wins at the desert track after having brought home that emotional first win there 13 years ago.
Driving the yellow M&M’S Toyota that day, Busch qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field because the team needed to make an engine change during Friday practice. Unfazed, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’S team worked their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. He went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.
While Busch has NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in 2016 and 2019 and Camping World Truck Series wins in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to go with his 2009 Cup Series win on the 1.5-mile oval, he already was no stranger to winning on Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the Bullring, which existed for several years before the NASCAR track was built. When Busch moved up to Late Models, his winning ways continued with 10 victories at the Bullring in 2001.
As he returns to Las Vegas this weekend, Busch is hoping the “Born in Las Vegas” connection will be just what he needs to celebrate along with Ethel M Chocolates, right at “home” in victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How exciting is it to have Ethel M Chocolates on your car again on Sunday, especially with the Las Vegas connection?
“It’s always a big deal. I’ve been able to go out to the plant several times, now, and met with the associates there and I’ve really enjoyed it. I didn’t realize it until I visited the plant and the retail store that I had been to the cactus garden there before with my grandma. So it’s nice to have that memory of being there as a child with my grandma right next to the plant where they make Ethel M. I’m really looking forward to getting out there on Sunday and hoping we can get Ethel M a good run and go for the win. We had some issues at Fontana, so hopefully we have those corrected for this weekend and we have a shot to run up front and see what we can do from there.”
Being from Las Vegas, is there always more pressure to perform when you’re at that racetrack?
“Yeah, certainly, you always want to do well. I feel like I’ve won that race before and just the huge sense of relief that kind of comes off your shoulders when you’re able to do that and win at your home track. It was pretty awesome. Kurt (Busch) was just able to finally get it done a few years ago, so that was really awesome to see. I remember mine, I think it was 2009. It’s been a long time. Back at that time, it felt like winning the Daytona 500. I hadn’t won as many big races as I have now, or won as often as I have now. So a lot of guys look at the Daytona 500, everybody puts extra emphasis on the Daytona 500 because it is our sport’s biggest race, right? Then you’ve got the guys who all go to their home tracks, and those guys put extra emphasis on their home track and they want to do well there. So it’s just kind of that same philosophy, I think. It’s really cool to have Ethel M Chocolates on the car again this weekend and it would be a great weekend to be able to bring home another win there, not only for myself but everyone down the road at Ethel M.”
What does it mean to your family to race in Las Vegas again?
“It’s cool to be able to come back home and to have the notoriety, I guess, that we have now. When we went out there years ago, there were many other drivers who were way bigger than us and way more popular than us. Now that we’ve been here for a while and those other drivers aren’t there anymore, we’ve kind of upped ourselves on the ladder of that and it’s cool. One of these days, hopefully, there might be a road out there named after us, or a grandstand or something of that nature. Don’t get too far ahead of yourselves because that just means I get closer to retirement if they start doing that, I guess.”
What was it like to bring home a Cup Series win in your hometown in 2009?
“It was cool. To go out there and to run a smooth race and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen.”
What is your fondest racing memory of growing up in Las Vegas?
“My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that is definitely a great memory to have.”