Red, White, and Blue
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 23, 2017) – The last weekend in May always has special meaning to Americans, for whom it is a time to remember and honor the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the United States military.
For race fans, in particular, the weekend is uniquely special in that America’s fallen soldiers are honored in the many festivities surrounding what is widely recognized as the biggest racing weekend of the year. In the United States, the racing day starts at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the iconic Indianapolis 500 and finishes under the lights at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway with the longest race of the Monster Energy NASCAR’s Cup Series – the Coca-Cola 600. Not only are they famous and historic racing events, but both events host many active duty military and both have traditions that honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
To honor those who have been lost this Memorial Day weekend, Kyle Busch will sport a special Red, White and Blue M&M’S scheme on his No. 18 Toyota Camry promoting M&M’S partnership with Operation Gratitude and Walmart stores. For a limited time, fans can buy the Red, White and Blue M&M’S at Walmart and, during this year’s promotion, for every bag purchased by a consumer, one bag will be sent to American troops abroad. After all, M&M’S candies were created 75 years ago as rations for American troops. Fans can also show their support for our troops at Walmart.com/SayThanksWithM or by simply using #SayThanksWithM on social media.
In addition to M&M’S and its Operation Gratitude program, fallen soldiers will be honored by NASCAR with its program called “600 Miles of Remembrance,” which features the name of a fallen soldier on the windshield of each racecar in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600. Busch has the honor of displaying the name of PFC William Johnson on his M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota. PFC Johnson, a native of Oxford, North Carolina, lost his life in Iraq in 2007.
Busch will look to honor PFC Johnson and all fallen soldiers with a strong run, and he’ll be heading into the 12th points race of the season Sunday as the winner of last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. The Las Vegas native used a bold move on the final restart to lead the last 10 laps to bring home his first All-Star win in his 12th try, the largest number of starts before an All-Star Race win. The previous record was held by Tony Stewart with 11 All-Star starts before his win in 2009.
Busch’s All-Star win also was his first Cup Series win of any kind at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval. Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star Race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds, and he finally accomplished that goal last weekend.
He now has his sights set on a bigger prize – a Coca-Cola 600 win and his first points-paying Cup Series win at Charlotte. In his 26 previous Cup Series starts at Charlotte over the past 12-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the oval nicknamed the “Beast of theSoutheast.” He has 10 top-five finishes to go with his 15 overall top-10s there. In addition to solid Cup Series finishes, Busch has captured eight NASCAR Xfinity Series wins – May 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010, October 2008 and 2009, and both May and October 2013. He also has seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins – 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, and this past weekend.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, Busch will look to build upon the momentum from Saturday night’s All-Star Race, all while honoring PFC Johnson and all the troops who have given the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the ones who continue to serve America.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are the challenges of racing at Charlotte?
“I think the biggest challenge about Charlotte is how much the track changes from practice. You practice all during the day and then you go into night racing. You’ve got to know what kind of adjustments to make to your car and how well you can race at night. Typically, you go back to your night notes. For us, we’ve run well there in the past and like going there. It’s a fun place to race and adds to the excitement of spending some time at home. I’m also really excited about our Red, White, and Blue M&M’S Camry. For every special Red, White, and Blue M&M’s bag sold at Walmart, M&M’S will send one to our American troops who are protecting our freedom every day.”
You have been able to win at all but two tracks where the Cup Series competes with Charlotte being one and Pocono being the other. Beyond just wanting to win the Coca-Cola 600, would simply winning at Charlotte also be a feather in your cap?
“Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is my favorite track, was really special last weekend since I’ve tried for a long time. Now that we’ve done that in the All-Star Race, I’m hoping it carries over to the 600 and I can bring home my first Cup points race there. It’s certainly high on my list of what I want to accomplish in this sport. There’s only one other track where we also need to win, which is Pocono, but there’s no doubt winning the Coke 600 would be big.”
You’ve always said that Charlotte is your favorite track. Is there any particular reason why?
“Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons. Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Xfinity Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. In Cup, I’ve had a lot of good finishes, but haven’t won one until last weekend, but hoping that’s the beginning of good things for me there.”
Does Sunday’s 600-mile race feel different than other events?
“It depends on what kind of car you have. I’ve been in races in the 600-mile race where it’s felt really easy and short, and I’ve been in races where it’s been a long, drawn-out, knock ’em, sock ’em kind of day. Hopefully, Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys can bring a really good M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Camry for me this weekend and it will be a smooth race for us. I like running the 600 miles. I think it brings a new aspect to our sport – its longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring. Whatever.’ Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and the history that we’ve had on Memorial Day weekend for a long time that you run that extra hundred miles. And car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You’ll have fatigue, sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. So, if you don’t show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good.”
If you’re saving your car for the end of the race, is it a struggle for you not to pass during the earlier stages of the long, 600-mile event?
“Yeah, you want to race those guys who are around you all of the time. You think to yourself, ‘There’s a car in front of me. I want to pass that guy.’ That’s what’s in your blood to do. Sometimes, you’ve just got to back off a little bit and kind of let the race play out. You’ve got to get to the end of the final pit stop. Once you get to the final pit stop, then the race is on.”
M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Racing
Race 12 of 36 – Coca-Cola 600 – Charlotte
Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota Camry
Teammates: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19
Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kyle Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Adam Stevens
Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio
Car Chief: Nate Bellows
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Race Engineer: Ben Beshore
Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania
Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana
Spotter: Tony Hirschman
Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Tom Lampe
Hometown: Beatrice, Nebraska
Front Tire Changer: Josh Leslie
Hometown: Mount Clemens, Michigan
Jackman: TJ Ford
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Front Tire Carrier: Brad Donaghy
Hometown: Orange County, Virginia
Rear Tire Carrier: Kenny Barber
Hometown: Hoosick Falls, New York
Rear Tire Changer: Jake Seminara
Hometown: Steubenville, Ohio
Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pit Support: Jeff Koons
Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana
Road Crew Members:
Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price
Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively
Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher
Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York
Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape
Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
Race Engineer: Tyler Allen
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase
Hometown: Nichols, New York
Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones
Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Mechanic: Todd Foster
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth
Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois
Notes of Interest:
* The Coca-Cola 600 will mark Kyle Busch’s 438th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 27th NASCAR Cup Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
* Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 150 top-five finishes, 223 top-10s and 12,818 laps led in 437 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in July 2016 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he brought home his second consecutive win at the historic 2.5-mile oval. Busch’s win came from the pole position, his most recent pole and the 19th of his career.
* Busch has no wins, 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s and has led a total of 908 laps in 26 career Cup Series starts at Charlotte. Busch’s average Charlotte finish is 15.5.
* All-Star Winner: While it wasn’t a points-paying race, Busch brought home a Cup Series victory last weekend in the All-Star Race at Charlotte. The win was Busch’s first victory in his 12th start in the All-Star Race, the largest number of starts before an All-Star Race win. The previous record was held by Tony Stewart with 11 All-Star starts before his win in 2009.
* 38 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Indianapolis last July, the 38th of his career, Busch is tied for 19th on the all-time Cup Series win list with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Matt Kenseth.
* Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 21 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only two tracks he has yet to conquer in the Cup Series are Pocono (Pa) Raceway and Charlotte, site of Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600. Busch, of course, was the winner of last weekend’s All-Star non-points race at Charlotte. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four of Busch’s last six Cup Series wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas). Of the 21 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
* All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 last July, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 34 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33.
* 172 and Counting: Busch enters Charlotte with 172 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (38), Xfinity (87) and Truck (48) following his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win last weekend at Charlotte.