It’s October and, as usual this time of year, M&M’S has brought back its Halloween-themed No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for driver Kyle Busch during the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – this weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and the following weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – during one of M&M’S busiest seasons.
Busch and his two-race M&M’S themed Halloween costume head to this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas hoping to lock in his spot to the Round of 8 of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. And for his part, Kansas hasn’t been nearly as spooky over the course of the last 10 races, as opposed to a vastly stark record over the course of his first 13 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, where he had eight finishes of 20th or worse.
With those finishes earlier in this career at Kansas in mind, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team can look to the turning point being in April 2014 race there where they started from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked the track in the Heartland of America with hope 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 of 15th was still much different than the three previous trips. They began to turn the corner in terms of competitiveness and results.
Starting with the October 2014 Kansas Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at the track. Anyone who has ever followed Busch’s career knows the 2015 Cup Series champion never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum carried over from the October 2014 top-five to his next Kansas race in October 2015, when he finished a solid third. It was a finish that helped vault him through to the next round of the Cup Series playoffs and eventually to the championship stage.
Busch has kept making strides each time he goes back to Kansas. He broke through for his first Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile oval in May 2016 as the surface finally started to wear and become more agreeable to Busch’s driving style. He now has eight top-10 finishes over the course of his last 10 starts there, a streak that at one point included five consecutive top-five finishes.
Sunday afternoon in Kansas, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team will look to tackle the final race of the Round of 12 of the 2019 playoffs. Busch has a 41-point advantage over the all-important cutoff spot for the Round of 8, a gap he hopes to keep in order to make it through to the next round. The Las Vegas native hopes for two strong finishes in the first two stages, along with a solid result in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 to make his advancement to the next round.
So, as the Cup Series heads to the Heartland of America Sunday, another solid finish at Kansas could be just what Busch needs to move on to the next playoff round. With Halloween fast approaching, Busch and his colorful M&M’S Halloween Toyota hope to take their costume to victory lane at Kansas.