Kyle Busch will most likely never win a popularity contest. It’s a good bet the reception for him at driver introductions will always be a mixture of cheers and jeers. But even if his merchandise sales are not recording-breaking, Busch is one of NASCAR’s main men. And the scary part is, Busch’s desire is only growing.
“I’m like a fine wine: I’m getting better with age,” Busch said with a smile Saturday night after winning at Richmond Raceway. “No, I’m really full of it, aren’t I?”
Champ, you can talk the talk since you certainly walk the walk.
The quick wit followed a question from this writer about whether it’s possible Busch is getting more determined over time. More determined to win races and championships, to try and lead every lap in a race, or sweep every event he’s entered in on a given weekend – like the three summer races in Bristol, which he’s done twice now.
Saturday night, Busch won for the 46th time in his NASCAR Cup Series career. It was his third consecutive win to go along with Texas and Bristol. And it puts Busch, the 2015 Cup Series champion, at 187 wins across all three NASCAR national series.
“The biggest thing is the continuation of trying to get better,” Busch said. “I think you can always improve. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, what things you’re doing behind the scenes, what film you’re watching, what notes you have. I think you can always get better. That’s just kind of what you try to do.
“It always seemed so easy for Jimmie [Johnson] when Jimmie was doing it. It’s like, ‘What is he doing? How does it seem so easy?’ I wouldn’t say we’re to that point yet. Obviously, we haven’t won five [titles] in a row. But finishing in the top three seven weeks in a row is impressive for me. I’d like to continue that throughout the season, have that shot when it comes down to the final 10 weeks and go after another championship.
“Race wins is where it’s at. But more importantly, championships are where it’s at. I would love to deliver more for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Certainly, Busch has been a force since joining JGR in 2008, and even through some of the controversy he found himself in and the accusations he had maturing to do, Busch knew how to get the job done. The 32-year-old showed that again in Richmond where the win didn’t come by way of domination – Busch started 32nd because of a miscalculation in qualifying and methodically marched his way through the field.
The race came two days after Busch had jumped into a late model to compete in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at a track he’d never run before, Langley Speedway. Yet it wasn’t surprising when Busch was fastest in one of the practice sessions and qualified third. He then led laps during the race and heartily challenged Hamlin – who got his racing start at Langley – for the win.
That’s Busch in a nutshell, as talented as he is determined. No matter the car or the track, he is never to be underestimated. A Cup and Xfinity Series champion, a championship-owner in the Truck Series and even one of the best talent scouts the sport has, Busch thrives on competition and accomplishments.
Hamlin finished third at Richmond and said his teammate has matured with age, marriage and the addition of son Brexton. And while complimenting Busch for the type of teammate he’s been and how their relationship has grown stronger through better communication, Hamlin also offered this not-so-surprising nugget:
“He’s really ultra-focused on trying to win more championships,” Hamlin said.
Turning left each weekend will never be enough for Busch. Scary indeed.