While Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500k at Phoenix Raceway marks the end of the 2022 season, the race will also mark the end of multiple eras, as well.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Thank You Fans Toyota Camry TRD for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will be making his final start with the team he first joined as a 22-year-old in 2008, and partner Mars and its iconic M&M’S brand will be making its final appearance as a team primary sponsor. Over the last 15 seasons, the combination of Busch, the Mars Wrigley brands, and JGR have proven to be a winning one. The team, driver, and sponsor combination has accounted for 56 wins and two Cup Series championships during their time together.
M&M’S is using its final NASCAR race to honor NASCAR fans and Mars associates, who are a featured part of the No.18 M&M’S Thank You Fans Camry mosaic scheme this weekend. At the start of the season, M&M’S asked fans and Mars associates to share their images on social media, and hundreds of those will ride along with Busch and M&M’S one final time at Phoenix.
In addition to the special paint scheme on the No. 18 M&M’S Camry this weekend, the Grand Marshal Toyota Camry pace car will be wrapped with M&M’S branding as it circles the Phoenix Raceway mile oval prior to Sunday’s race.
Once the green flag waves, Busch will look to win at a place where he knows victory lane well. He won at Phoenix for the first time in the fall of 2006, but went 12 years before his next turn at tasting victory there when he won back-to-back in the fall 2018 and spring 2019 races. Those were the first two events on the renovated and reconfigured track surface with the start-finish line moved from what is now the backstretch over to the dogleg in front of the new main grandstand. Busch, in fact, has led a whopping 491 laps since the track was reconfigured and has added two more top-five finishes to those aforementioned wins at Phoenix.
Even though the M&M’S driver went 25 races between wins on the mile oval, he has been incredibly consistent throughout his career there. In 34 Cup Series starts at the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has 12 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s while scoring top-fives in nine of his last 14 starts there, including those back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019.
So as the Cup Series season comes to an end, and Busch, M&M’S and JGR head to the racetrack one final time together, the two-time Cup Series champion will hope to wheel his No. 18 M&M’S Camry to victory lane once again and bring down the curtain in style, much like he has over the last 15 years.
Do you have some confidence at Phoenix with how much success you’ve had there of late?
“I really like Phoenix, and we won there a couple of times since they changed the start-finish line. So much has changed since then. It’s entirely different now, so maybe we can still be good when we go back there, hopefully, but a lot’s been going on in the development of everybody’s cars this year with the NextGen car, so we will see where we stack up and how much has changed since we were there in March. We’ll see what we have this weekend with our M&M’S Camry and we would like nothing better than to spoil the fun and take another trophy home. It’s been quite a ride with M&M’s over the years and it’s pretty cool to have a lot of images of Rowdy Nation along for the ride. We’ll give them all we can this weekend.”
You won two of the first four Cup Series races at the mile oval following the reconfiguration. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave and then more recently flipping the start-finish line to a different spot. For some reason, I’ve always run well there. I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you have two distinctly different sets of corners at Phoenix.”
You have good memories at Phoenix. How does that play into this weekend?
“The last several times we’ve been to Phoenix, we’ve run pretty well, but a few tough finishes in there for various reasons. Hopefully, that can translate to this time around again. We were decent at Richmond and normally Richmond translates well there. Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway), that translates there, even though we didn’t get to see how good we could be there this summer. I think we can do OK. It’s just a matter of running another clean race and not making mistakes.”
What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?
“You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but heading there with our M&M’S Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out.”
● All in the Stats:Busch has three wins, 12 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s and has led a total of 1,190 laps in 34 career Cup Series starts at the Phoenix. Busch’s average Phoenix finish is 10.7.
● 224 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 224 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at Phoenix. In addition to his 60 Cup Series wins and 102 in the Xfinity Series, Busch has 62 wins in the Camping World Truck Series.