It’s hard to believe Kyle Busch has many milestones left to reach in his NASCAR career. But this weekend he’ll cross another off the list as he makes his 500th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Busch made his first six starts in 2004 when he was just 19 years old. A year later he was full-time in the series with Hendrick Motorsports, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet. Now with Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch will make his 500th start at age 33 and with 14 full years of experience.
Last week during Daytona 500 Media Day Busch was asked about his milestone start, and he revealed he had recently been reflecting and watching old videos.
“Like my ARCA win at Daytona, and I saw a video of the 2007 Daytona 500 [when] I was running third, Kurt was leading, Tony [Stewart] was second,” Busch said. “Looking at some of that stuff and just being like, damn, that was a long time ago. That was 10, 11 years ago. It’s like holy moly. So, to think there’s another 10 [years] left of that — it’s sure gone by quick.
“I don’t know if the next 10 will go by that fast or if it’ll feel like forever, but we’ll see what happens.”
Here are 18 memorable Cup Series moments from the driver of the No. 18 Toyota.
First career win
Busch’s domination had to start somewhere, and he did dominate for his first win at Fontana in 2005 in his 31st career start. Busch led 95 laps (a race-high) after starting 25th.
Bristol, March 2007
One of the earliest quotable moments in Busch’s career came after a victory. Busch won the first race NASCAR ran using its Car of Tomorrow. After thanking his team, sponsors and acknowledging the win for his Hendrick team and Chevrolet, Busch told the world in victory lane, “I’m still not a very big fan of these things, I can’t stand to drive them. They suck.”
Texas, April 2007
An eyebrow-raising moment if nothing else, this day saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive Busch’s No. 5 car. The two were involved in an accident when smoke from a Tony Stewart spin led Busch to slam into the back of Earnhardt’s car. Earnhardt later blew an engine and retired from the race, while at the same time Busch’s car was finished being repaired and ready to hit the track. In what was chalked up as a miscommunication, Busch had left, and his team needed a driver. Earnhardt got in the car as a favor to some of the team members he knew. Ironically, two months later Earnhardt signed with Hendrick and Busch needed a new ride.
Brothers gone bad
Kyle and older brother Kurt haven’t clashed often on track, but when they have, it’s big. Such was the case in the May 2007 All-Star Race when Kyle had a run on Kurt going down the frontstretch and into Turn 1. Kyle got sideways and when he spun he hit Kurt, sending him into the wall as well. The two would be upset with each other until their grandmother told them to “get back to your normal selves” at Thanksgiving.
Signing with Joe Gibbs Racing
Busch didn’t stay on the free agent market long. Two months after Earnhardt signing with HMS, it was announced Joe Gibbs had signed Busch to a multi-year contract. It was a turning point in Busch’s career as he won eight races in his first season with JGR (2008), four more than he had in his previous three seasons combined at HMS. He hasn’t looked back since.
Toyota’s first win, 2008
Busch’s first win with JGR was a major milestone for another reason. In the fourth race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Busch led 173 laps on his way to the checkered flag, which was the very first win in NASCAR Cup Series competition for Toyota.
Richmond, May 2008
Three laps to go. Turn 3. The night Busch became the most hated driver in NASCAR to one fan base when he made contact with Earnhardt, which spun Earnhardt from the race lead.
Las Vegas, 2009
Busch won the pole for the race in his hometown, but had to start in the rear because of a blown engine. After telling the crowd during driver introductions he was going to put on a show, Busch made good on the promise. He kissed the finish line after his celebration and said it was bigger than winning the Daytona 500.