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Busch to race Cup without main sponsor M&M's

Kyle Busch watches start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race from his team's pit at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Busch was barred Saturday from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas this weekend, a rare step taken by NASCAR after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series on Friday night. Kyle Busch watches start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race from his team's pit at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Busch was barred Saturday from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas this weekend, a rare step taken by NASCAR after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series on Friday night. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer / November 10, 2011

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Kyle Busch will be allowed to race in the final two Sprint Cup Series events but without main sponsor M&M's.

Busch will drive Sunday at Phoenix and in next weekend's season finale at Homestead with Interstate Batteries as his sponsor instead. Although M&M's is Busch's primary sponsor, Interstate Batteries is heavily involved with the team.

In a statement released Thursday night, sponsor Mars said 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."

"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 Debra A. Sandler, chief consumer officer, Mars Chocolate North America. "We believe our decision will have a positive impact on Kyle and will help him return next season ready to win."

The deal ends a week of wrangling over Busch's future with his race team -- all fallout from a road rage incident at Texas. Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution early in the Trucks Series race and was parked by NASCAR for the rest of the weekend.

Busch has admitted he lost control of his temper and has since apologized. NASCAR suspended him from all racing at Texas, and this week fined him $50,000 and placed him on probation through the end of the year.

But questions from his sponsors put everything in limbo.

In fact, multiple people familiar with Busch's schedule told the Associated Press that Z-Line Designs asked this week that Denny Hamlin replace Busch in next weekend's Nationwide race at Homestead. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings over Busch's future have been ongoing.

Interstate was JGR's original primary sponsor and only relinquished its role when Busch signed with the team in 2008. The company was the primary sponsor for Busch in six Cup races this season. It also was his sponsor in a Nationwide and Truck Series race and sponsored Hamlin and Joey Logano in one race each.

Busch, who seemed unrepentant after the accident, admitted he lost his cool on the track.

"I've been wrecked four weeks in a row, and I've had enough of it, and I retaliated," he said. "So it's certainly my fault for doing that. If everybody wants to say, `Hornaday is racing for a championship, roll over,' that's not my fashion. That's not anybody else's fashion out here."

His tone changed considerably a day later, after NASCAR "parked" him from all competition at Texas.

"I've had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can," he wrote in a lengthy apology posted Saturday on the Kyle Busch Motorsports website. "I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night's Truck Series race at Texas."

It's been a tremendous fall for the 26-year-old Busch, who just two months ago was the favorite to win his first Sprint Cup championship.

He opened the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup tied with rival Kevin Harvick for the top seed based on his four regular season victories. But he again faltered in the opening Chase races and was never a serious title contender.

This latest problem comes at the end of what's been a rough year for Busch, who actually had made huge strides in showing more maturity and patience both on and off the track. But he still had many missteps, including one on pit road with Harvick at Darlington that earned him a $25,000 fine.

Busch also lost his North Carolina driver's license and was fined $1,000 for driving 128 mph in a 45-mph zone in May. He was ordered to do 30 hours of community service and serve a year of unsupervised probation.

Busch was also in a confrontation in the garage with rival team owner Richard Childress, and NASCAR fined Childress $150,000 for his actions.

He also had contact with Elliott Sadler during a Bristol truck race in August, then intentionally wrecked Sadler a few minutes later as retaliation. Sadler drives for Harvick, a longtime Busch rival, in the Nationwide Series.

In his apology Saturday, Busch noted that his missteps have undone all the progress he's made in maturing this season.

"Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I've made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward," he wrote. "Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now."

Busch is one of NASCAR's most successful and polarizing drivers. He has 104 victories spanning NASCAR's top three national series, and consistently dominates in both the Nationwide and Trucks Series.

This year, Busch has four wins in the Cup Series, eight in Nationwide and six in Trucks. He drives for his own truck team and said last month he'll field a Nationwide team next season and planned to drive for himself in some of those races.

But he's disliked by some fans for everything from his success, his feuds with Harvick and others and his aggressive on-track attitude.

Although JGR has not said if Busch's job is in jeopardy, he has been fired before. Hendrick Motorsports let him go at the end of the 2007 season, when the team made room to sign Dale Earnhardt Jr.