LONG POND, Pa. — (AP) — Kyle Busch donned a yellow M&M’s polo shirt over another shirt before taking the stage to celebrate one more victory as a team owner in the NASCAR Truck Series.
He’s looking forward to a mode change – in the form of new sponsor merchandise – for 2023.
Busch is in his final months wearing M&M’s gear until the shirt is tossed aside like old Snickers wrapping paper. The wait for a new deal with Joe Gibbs Racing has dragged on at Pocono Raceway, with the two-time Cup champion looking no closer to a contract resolution.
M&M Mars, which has sponsored Busch since he joined the Gibbs organization in 2008, exited NASCAR at the end of the season. Much like a bite into crispy M&M’s, Busch, JGR and Toyota are feeling the crunch.
“We’re all working as hard as we can, obviously, and the goal hasn’t changed,” Busch said on Saturday. “And that goal is for me to be able to continue at Joe Gibbs Racing with Toyota and have that chance to continue racing for wins and racing for championships.”
Thanks to the signage around the track, Busch couldn’t ignore what he was losing at the end of the season. Yes, his No. 18 Toyota sports the familiar candy paint scheme, but Sunday’s Cup race is titled M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 and its logo has taken over the flag. Mars Wrigley’s offices and factory in Hackettstown, New Jersey are less than an hour’s drive east of Pocono Raceway
Busch also has to worry about the future of KBM, a wildly successful Truck Series program run from a 77,000 square foot headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.
“It weighs on me a lot. We have about 50 employees,” Busch said at KBM. “It’s important for me to continue to keep each one of them in mind, and all of their families and everything, to make sure that we accomplish something that allows all of this to continue. It’s a topic for me to keep that as much as possible and make this place thrive.
Gibbs made contract talks grim last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, saying, “I’m surprised at this point that we couldn’t finish this.” Toyota’s optimism also crumbled. TRD President David Wilson told NBC Sports this week, “We’re in a rough spot right now” and unspecified contingency plans were considered.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said he doesn’t necessarily find it troubling that so late in the season one of the sport’s great drivers can’t land the sponsorship that infuses teams with the big payday much needed to operate. .
“We obviously want Kyle in the race car,” he said. “We want Kyle to stay with Joe Gibbs Racing as long as Kyle, his coach and the organization can relate to that. He’s a huge talent, obviously a first-round Hall of Famer. We want Kyle there. for another decade or however long he wants to race in NASCAR.
Busch, 37, has 222 wins in NASCAR’s three national series and is the only active Cup driver with multiple championships. Busch has just one win this season, earning him a guaranteed playoff berth at Pocono.
“The best thing right now is to go out there and show everyone that you can still do it, you can still win, you can still be competitive,” Busch said.
Meanwhile, big brother Kurt, the 2004 Cup champion, continues to drop clues that next season at 23XI Racing will be his last in NASCAR. Kurt Busch, however, said Saturday “there’s no real game plan yet” on when he plans to retire.
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