NASCAR & Auto Racing

Candy giant Mars near deal

to move to Gibbs team in 2008

DOVER, Del. - Mars Inc., which has sponsored both Nextel Cup teams at Robert Yates Racing this season, is finalizing a deal to become the sponsor of driver Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing next season, The Charlotte Observer and have learned.

If the deal is completed as expected, the Mars' M&M's brand would sponsor Busch's No. 18 Toyotas next season, multiple sources said on Thursday. A formal announcement of the sponsorship change could come as early as the first week of October.

Officials with JGR and Mars Inc. did not immediately return calls for comment on Thursday night.

The M&M's brand has been has been involved in NASCAR since 1998 and the company has sponsored such drivers as Ernie Irvan, Ken Schrader, Elliott Sadler and most recently David Gilliland.

The future of the No. 18 team's current sponsor, Interstate Batteries, remains unclear. Interstate has been scaling back its Cup sponsorship, selling off its primary sponsorship for several races over the past few seasons.

“We're on the contract for '08, but we are also open to develop some type of partnership. We're talking with several people. We're hoping to get the best we can out of it all, and come up with a good partner," Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller said earlier this month.

"But if push comes to shove, we'd be delighted to ride with Kyle (Busch) here through the whole season. We're hoping that we can work all that out."

With Mars' departure, Yates will need to find sponsors for two Cup teams for next season. Robert Yates recently announced he was retiring at season's end and son Doug would take over Yates Racing in 2008.

The organization, which plans to get chassis and technical support from Roush Fenway Racing next year, plans to field drivers Travis Kvapil and Gilliland in the Cup series next season.