Kyle Busch's position in NASCAR remains at risk this weekend, after it was revealed that his primary sponsor - M&M's, part of the Mars, Inc. confectionery giant - had pulled its financial support for Busch for the remainder of the 2011 Sprint Cup season.
The decision by Mars follows the furore that surrounded Busch after he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday during last week's Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch was parked for the whole weekend by NASCAR following the crash.
Mars' Chief Consumer Officer Debra A. Sandler insisted that "Mars and the M&M's brand strongly support the partnership we have with Joe Gibbs Racing and are committed to NASCAR. Yet, Kyle's recent actions are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of Mars."
As a result, the company has pulled its branding and its financial support from the #18 car for the remaining two races of the season - this weekend's event at Phoenix International Raceway, and next weekend's season finale at Homestead-Miami.
However, the company added that they would return to the livery of the #18 in 2012 as normal, with Busch still at the wheel - proving he behaves himself.
“While we do not condone Kyle's recent actions, we do believe that he has shown remorse and has expressed a desire to change," said Sandler. "We believe our decision will have a positive impact on Kyle and will help him return next season ready to win."
Joe Gibbs, the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, said that he and the team "strongly support Mars' decision," and added that "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."
Busch had been cleared by NASCAR to race this weekend in the Kobalt Tools 500, but it emerged midweek that JGR were having to prepare a contingency plan in case Mars demanded that he be parked as a condition of not pulling their sponsorship from the team altogether.
"[JGR] simply asked if I would be available, and I told JD to check with my bosses, and that's as far as that went," said Aric Almirola, revealing an approach from JGR president JD Gibbs about possibly taking over the wheel of the #18 Cup car this weekend. "I've haven't gotten a phone call back, so I assume everything is taken care of."