Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch just can’t escape each other.
Whether it’s on the racetrack where they lead the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in wins, gobbling up playoff points; or off-track now that they are official teammates, with Truex joining Busch in-house at Joe Gibbs Racing.
The connection also extends to being asked about each other in the media.
Truex and Busch, it could be argued, are the top guys in the series. But theirs is a somewhat unique ‘rivalry’.
“It’s definitely more of a friendly rivalry now that we are in the same shop,” Truex said Saturday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway, less than a week after beating Busch comfortably on the road course at Sonoma. “There were some challenges throughout the years with [us on] different teams. It wasn’t always on-track stuff. Definitely now, it’s more a friendly rivalry. It has been really good.
“We were joking all last weekend,” Truex went on. “It was cool to put it in victory lane and go back-and-forth there — really cool that he stuck his head in there, and to see all those guys after the race. That was really good. I’m sure [Busch’s No. 18 crew] weren’t over-the-moon happy with me winning, but they were very respectful and great teammates about it.”
Busch conceded last weekend that it sucked to finish second to a teammate, but it was good for the company. He understands that being under the same roof means either one of them winning on a given weekend.
“I would say it’s a friendly rivalry,” said Busch. “The way we go about it, we put everything on out on the table. We have crashed each other a few times, and we have been pissed at each other a few times, but a couple weeks later we are back to business, joking around in meetings, working with one another and stuff like that.
“You are going to have those situations that happen just because of how close we are running. We try to give each other space and the respect that each of us deserve. Sometimes we run into one another, but that happens.
“It has been good overall,” Busch adds.
Seven times Truex and Busch have finished 1-2 in a Cup Series race, Busch the winner in four of those seven with Truex taking the trophy in the other three.
Going even deeper, though, not since 2013 when he was competing with Michael Waltrip Racing has Truex had multiple teammates to compete with and stack himself up against. Not only have Truex and Busch won this season, but Denny Hamlin has also gone to victory lane — twice — for Gibbs.
“It has been fun — it’s something that drives you, pushes you,” said Truex. “Nobody wants to be third or fourth in the group. You want to be the best. You want to win championships. You want to be the fastest every week. But at the same time, it’s difficult because we are working together, and we are sharing everything. There are no secrets. I can’t keep any secrets from him; he can’t keep any secrets from me.
“It’s a real reality check in your own mind on how things are going, when you are looking at those guys and how they are doing and how you are doing. You are constantly comparing yourself. It has been different, for sure, from the last couple seasons, but in a good way. It’s just another little push. It makes you work and try and look at everything just a little bit harder and a little bit closer.”