Kyle Busch has lost a primary sponsor for the remaining two races of the 2011 Sprint Cup season.
M&M's was to be on the hood of Kyle Busch's No. 18 for the final two Cup races of 2011 at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami. But as a result of Busch's actions in last Friday's Truck Series race at Texas, the company has opted to pull sponsorship until 2012. Interstate Batteries will be on Busch's hood for the final two races.
"Kyle's recent actions are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of Mars," said Debra A. Sandler, chief consumer officer, Mars Chocolate North America. "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."
While this is a blow for Busch in the short term, it could have been worse. Aric Almirola had been contacted by Joe Gibbs Racing as a possible replacement for Busch in the remainder of the 2011 Cup Series, according to an ESPN report. And though Busch is losing M&M's for these two races, it appears the company will be back on his hood in 2012, presuming Busch stays out of trouble. In a statement released late Thursday evening, Mars stated, "The car will not run with the M&M's paint scheme until 2012, at which time Kyle Busch will be the driver with the expectation that no future incident take place."
That's good news for Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team.
"We strongly support Mars' decision," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "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."
The fallout stems from an incident with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Nov. 4 Truck Series race at Texas when Busch purposefully wrecked Hornaday. NASCAR immediately parked Busch, then held him out of both the weekend's Cup and Nationwide Series races. He was fined $50,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of the season.
After receiving the punishment from NASCAR, Busch released an apology letter in which he stated the following: "I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions. As a racecar driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself."
Z-Line, Busch's sponsor in the Nationwide Series, has requested Busch not be in the No. 18 car in the Nationwide season finale next week at Homestead-Miami, according to the Associated Press.
Busch and Gibbs will meet with the media Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway.