Mars Wrigley’s involvement with the sport of NASCAR goes all the way back to 1990, when the SNICKERS brand first fielded a car for Rick Wilson at Stavola Brothers Racing. The partnership continued the next couple of seasons with Bobby Hillin Jr. and Dick Trickle behind the wheel.
The Mars brands dabbled as an associate sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports for several seasons before signing on with MB2 Motorsports in 1998 as a fulltime sponsor of driver Ernie Irvan, and the paint schemes for most of the season featured the SKITTLES brand. It was during that same season that Irvan drove a special scheme featuring Mars’ trademark brand M&M’S® to celebrate the opening of the M&M’S World® store in Las Vegas.
The response to the colorful M&M’S® paint scheme was one of excitement from motorsports and chocolate fans alike. For the 1999 season, Mars unveiled M&M’S® as its on-track focal point. With the start of the year at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, M&M’S® began its tenure as a primary sponsor in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Fast forward to 2022 as Kyle Busch and the M&M’S brand finish off a successful 15-year run together. Since it began in 2008, Busch has scored 56 victories in NASCAR’s top series. As Mars continues to thank the fans for all their support during its time in NASCAR, the company let the fans choose the paint scheme for this weekend’s official throwback weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The fans voted Irvan’s 1998 M&M’S scheme to emblazon Busch’s No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry TRD in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington.
As Busch and the M&M’S 1998 Throwback team head back to Darlington, they return to a place where they’ve won before, and where Busch has enjoyed recent success. The Las Vegas native has conquered “The Track Too Tough To Tame” with a Cup Series win in May 2008. It earned him the distinction of being the youngest Cup Series winner – at 23 years of age – in the track’s storied history. Busch also has two Xfinity Series wins at Darlington, coming in May 2011 and 2013.
Since joining JGR back in 2008, Busch has brought home six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 17 Darlington starts for JGR, but still looking to back up his lone Cup Series victory there.
So as Busch heads back this weekend to the track also known as the “Lady in Black,” he’ll look to add another Darlington win to his resume as primary sponsor M&M’S continues to show its appreciation for all the fan support during its 30 years of involvement in the sport of NASCAR.
What are your expectations for Darlington this weekend?
“Darlington has been a place where we’ve run up front and have had a chance to win, but we just haven’t gotten over the hump and back to victory lane there recently. Looking forward to getting back there this weekend with our M&M’S throwback. Think a lot of people remember this car when they ran it. Really would like to get M&M’S to victory lane this weekend since Darlington is a unique place and somewhere everyone wants to win.”
Now that you have a win this season, does that make you more aggressive trying to earn stage and playoff points?
“Now that we have a win, I would certainly put my neck out on the line a bit more and do whatever we’ve got to do to try and get another win and more playoff points. Because you have a win, it gives you a little bit – not a lot – of cushion. There are still like nine of us who have at least one win that also have the five bonus points – we only have that one extra stage win that gives us that sixth bonus point. You’re not super far ahead and we need to work our way up in points when the regular season comes to an end, and you are rewarded with those points as far as where you start the playoffs. That’s next on the docket. You still have to be consistent and try not to crash out and get as many points as possible, but it gives us a bit more leeway than we had before we won at Bristol.”
Would you say this is an important stretch for the series as you are in the midst of a lot of tracks that are also playoff venues?
“It’s an important stretch for us. Fairly recently, we’ve had Richmond, Martinsville, Talladega, Darlington this weekend, and Kansas coming up, all (tracks) in the playoffs, so you want to run well and set yourself up to run well at these places in the fall. The biggest thing you would learn at these places is how the races go and picking those things out in the racecar that you work on for the next time you come back to make sure you are even better. I know that we will have learned a lot of this car between now and then, but certainly each of the weekends will help pad the notebook a bit.”
Darlington was repaved prior to 2008 and it’s back to a surface that’s worn and chews up tires. How much does the surface there change from year to year?
“Darlington gets worn out a lot more every year we race there. We’ve gone back there the last couple of years and it’s really slickened up and fallen off. The pace falls off a ton over the course of the run and really chews up the tires for the first little bit of the race. As the rubber gets down on the track, it starts to level off a little bit, but still the day races there are treacherous and slick and hard to hang on. Especially coming back this year with a new car and a new tire, it will present some new challenges that we’ll have to figure out.”