Mars Parks Kyle Busch
Mars, Inc., has disassociated itself from NASCAR driver Kyle Busch for the remaining two Sprint Cup Series races of the 2011 season, removing the paint scheme of primary sponsor M&M’S® from the No. 18 Toyota Camry until 2012.
The decision is the latest fallout from Busch’s actions during a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4, when he admitted to intentionally crashing into four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. after contact between the two early in the race. Busch chased down and rammed into the rear of Hornaday’s truck under caution, turning the vehicle front-first into the Turn 4 wall.
The trucks driven by both Hornaday – then in contention for a record fifth NCWTS driver’s championship – and Busch were eliminated from the WinStar World Casino 350k.
The No. 18 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing in Sprint Cup will not run with an M&M’S® paint scheme again until 2012, at which time a Mars official said Busch will be the driver “with the expectation that no future incident” takes place.
“We strongly support Mars’ decision,” team-owner Joe Gibbs said in a statement issued Thursday evening from Avondale, Ariz., site of Sunday’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Race No. 9 at Phoenix International Raceway. “This gives us all time to work together to foster a positive change where Kyle can continue racing in a way we can all be proud of.”
Irving, Texas-based Interstate Batteries, a partner of JGR since the team’s inception 20 years ago, will be featured on Busch’s No. 18 Camry for Sunday’s 24th annual Kobalt Tools 500 at PIR and for the season-ending 13th annual Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
Gibbs and Busch are scheduled to address the situation during a news conference at PIR’s infield media center at 9:30 a.m. (MST) Friday.
Mars, Inc., announced the decision via a release issued from Hackettstown, N.J., Thursday evening.
“As a proud member of the racing community, Mars and the M&M’S® brand strongly support the partnership we have with Joe Gibbs Racing and are committed to NASCAR,” said Debra A. Sandler, chief consumer officer, Mars Chocolate North America. “Yet, Kyle’s recent actions are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of Mars. While we do not condone Kyle’s recent actions, we do believe that he has shown remorse and has expressed a desire to change. We believe our decision will have a positive impact on Kyle and will help him return next season ready to win.”
Frank C. Mars established the confectionery company bearing his name in 1911. Based in McLean, Va., Mars today has net sales of more than $30-billion and six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks and Symbioscience. The company employs more than 65,000 associates worldwide.
NASCAR officials immediately parked Busch, who was driving a Toyota Tundra fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports, after the incident Friday night. On Saturday morning, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced that Busch was suspended from competing in the Nationwide and Cup series races in Fort Worth. During a subsequent news conference, Gibbs assumed “full responsibility” for Busch’s actions as owner of his Cup Series ride.
On Monday NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 and placed him on probation until Dec. 31. Busch, 26, was cited for violating Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) of the 2011 NASCAR Rule Book.
In issuing the penalty, NASCAR stated that “if during the remaining NASCAR events in 2011 there is another action by the competitor that is deemed by NASCAR officials as detrimental to stock car racing or to NASCAR, or is disruptive to the orderly conduct of an event, the competitor will be suspended indefinitely from NASCAR.”
Busch apologized Saturday night to all involved via a statement. On Sunday, he watched Michael McDowell drive the No. 18 to an uncompetitive 33rd-place finish in the seventh annual AAA Texas 500, three laps down to winner Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing. A four-time Cup race-winner this season, Busch began the weekend seventh among the 12 Chase drivers, a distant 57 points behind championship leader Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing. Following Sunday’s race Busch is 11th, 100 points behind Edwards and out of championship contention.
“We know the expectations,” McDowell said post-race, citing a loose-handling car that plagued him all day. “We obviously were hoping for more and for a big day, but that wasn’t meant to be. I’m a race car driver. I want to win races and I had a car that typically wins races, so that’s the expectation for me and I enjoyed the race.”
Busch wound-up watching the race from a seat on the team’s pit box, wearing a set of headphones. That was after a contrite Busch met with his Cup team, led by crew chief Dave Rogers, early Sunday morning.
“We got together and Kyle asked everybody, he looked them in the eye straight-up, man-to-man, ‘This is where I stand, this is what I did, this is how I feel,’^” Rogers said after Sunday’s event. “He didn’t sugar-coat anything, didn’t make excuses for anything, but he leveled with the team. That honesty is a strength of this race team. We are honest with each other whether things are going good or bad. He did that and that made the guys feel good because it’s like, ‘OK, that’s our teammate. He’s not sugar-coating things.’
“Then, at the end he asked the guys if they would mind if he sat on the pit box with us. That’s something that he wanted to do, but he was humble enough to actually ask his pit crew members if that would be OK. Unanimously everyone started screaming, ‘Yes, we want you there.’ So I think Kyle handled (Sunday) like a professional. It would have been much easier for him to get on an airplane and fly home and feel sorry for himself and he didn’t.
“He was obviously disappointed, but he stood there and he backed his race team from flag-to-flag and I appreciate it. I know all the guys appreciate it. I don’t know what he could have done better.”
Rogers, 37, noted that Busch specifically apologized to his crew. “Certainly, Kyle knows that he’s supposed to drive that race car, that’s his job _ he knows that,” said Rogers, who became Busch’s crew chief prior to the November 2009 race at TMS. “He apologized to the guys for not being in the race car. You know, he apologized at-length and let everyone know where he stood. I think everyone was comfortable with that.”One Comment