Kyle isn’t the only Busch who deserves some headlines early in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
While the younger Busch picked up his 52nd Cup Series win last Sunday, moving him one victory closer to writing a piece of superb history with 200 career victories, the older Busch took another step in making the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team contenders again. Kurt Busch claimed his third top-10 in four races, finishing seventh at ISM Raceway. He now has an average finish of 10th on the season, and if the Daytona 500 were washed away, it’d be markedly better as he’s finished no worse than seventh in the last three weeks.
“I’m glad we got a top 10,” said Busch after ISM. “We had to battle hard for this one. We didn’t do really good on pit road and we didn’t really do good on restarts, but overall it was nice to have a read on some looseness and tightness at a short track, and get more notes under our belt. That’s key for me and (crew chief) Matt McCall.”
Busch is going to get the most credit for the team’s turnaround. He has already tied the number of top-five finishes former driver Jamie McMurray accumulated in 36 races last season (two), and Busch is on pace to crush the top 10 mark (eight). He has also led more laps in four races (23) than McMurray did in 2018, ’17, ’16, and ’15.
Winning is a realistic aim for this group, and would not be surprising if it happened sooner rather than later.
Busch’s acknowledgment of McCall gives way to a nice aside. McCall might be one of the most underrated crew chiefs in the garage – which won’t be the case for long, should this success with Busch keep up.
And none of this commentary is meant to defile McMurray’s reputation or talent. In his recent CGR tenure, 2010-18, McMurray was a reliable driver. Stats and facts don’t lie, though. Aside from his four wins in those nine seasons, McMurray never finished inside the top 10 in points or legitimately challenged in the postseason, where Busch has been consistent winner in his career and playoff contender.
Whether it’s a new driver in Busch or the reset with a new rules package – maybe both – it has refreshed the group. Don’t forget how talented the older Busch brother is, who early in his career would deflect attention by saying just wait until his brother came along. However, a former champion in his own right (2004), Kurt Busch fits in nicely at an organization that is swimming in talent in all forms of racing, led by a team owner who created his own Twitter hashtag: #ilikewinners.
“Awesome, fun, running with [Kyle] Larson,” continued Busch. “The two of us got a pretty good read on each other on when we’re holding each other up or if we’re helping each other, and then at the end they told me I was about a lap shy on fuel, so I had to save, and I just let Larson go, and it worked out.
“To have two Ganassi cars sixth and seventh, top Chevys, that’s good stuff.”
Two consistently successful CGR cars is certainly good stuff. Busch’s early season fire is also good stuff. And that’s the original Busch brother, Kurt Busch.