When it comes to NASCAR, there aren’t many traditions that run more deep than kicking off each new season with Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, which this year culminates Feb. 21 with the 58th running of the Daytona 500.
This year’s Speedweeks is also where another American icon, the M&M’S brand, primary sponsor of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), first takes to the track in its season-long celebration of its 75th anniversary.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the M&M’S brand, Busch’s colorful M&M’s Toyota will bring back the familiar yellow scheme, with a few nods to its rich past, as the driver and the No. 18 team open their title defense in 2016.
During a memorable 2015 season filled with highs and lows, Busch’s year started with the challenge of recovering from a broken right leg and left foot in an accident in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the day before the Daytona 500.
Remarkably, the Las Vegas native not only recovered from the injury much earlier than anticipated, he and his team wrote one of the greatest comeback stories in recent sports history. After missing 11 races due to his injuries, Busch made it back to the track in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, needing to win a race and rally to make it within the top-30 in driver points over the final 15 regular-season races in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
A hot streak during the summer months helped vault Busch into Chase position with four wins in a five-race stretch from late-June through July, including a win in the prestigious Brickyard 400. As a result, Busch was able to lock up a Chase spot by early September. From there, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire M&M’S team worked their way methodically through the 10-race Chase. They made it to the Championship Four in the winner-take-all season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Busch and M&M’S team muscled their way to the championship by winning the race in dramatic fashion.
Busch marked off two big accomplishments during his magical 2015 season – the Brickyard 400 victory and the Sprint Cup title. He now has his sights set on what every stock car driver dreams of – winning the Daytona 500. After his 10 Daytona 500 starts, Busch is still searching for his first victory in NASCAR’s season-opening event as he looks to add to the crown jewels already on his resume – which also includes a victory in the 2008 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Before the 58th running of the Great American Race next week, the 2016 season will warm up with Saturday night’s non-points Sprint Unlimited, which Busch won in 2012. It continues through next week’s Can-Am Duels qualifying races. Busch won his Duel qualifying race in 2009 and 2013. And, the official Sprint Cup season begins in earnest Feb. 21 with the Daytona 500. In addition to his three non-points race wins at Daytona, Busch captured his first and only Daytona points-paying Sprint Cup win in July 2008.
So, as Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Camry look to start off the 75th anniversary of M&M’S in a positive way at Daytona, he hopes the return of the classic M&M’s yellow paint scheme sparks him to “Celebrate with M” by adding his name as the 37th driver to grace the Harley J. Earl Trophy as Daytona 500 champion.