Kyle Busch’s long-awaited triumph Wednesday night in Texas “felt like a championship win,” the driver admitted afterward.
“When you’re at Homestead, and you’re racing around on that final run, and every little thing that can go wrong you feel like is going wrong or every creak of the tire you think you’ve got a flat tire when everything is fine — today was one of those days,” said Busch. “We had to save fuel that entire last stage. The beginning of the final stage, we were saving fuel there towards the end once [Clint] Bowyer had to pit, and then after the pit stop, the entirety after the final pit stop, I was saving fuel, as well, too. So, there was a lot on my mind and things that we were trying to do and accomplish, obviously, with trying to stretch it.
“Then the other thing was just the amount of ‘things that can go wrong will go wrong’-type stuff that goes in your mind. We had a rubber fire in the cockpit; it was pretty much the whole final run. If it was a 50‑lap final run, it was there for 40 laps. It was just rubber that would light on fire and pretty much smoke me out like I don’t know if I’m going to pass the CO test. But we made it, so it all doesn’t matter now.”
Busch ended his 33-race winless drought by having fuel mileage go his way in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. He said it was the first true race this season his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team didn’t have anything happen to them.
The small amount of fuel Busch had left, he used up with a signature smoke-filled burnout. But after collecting the checkered flag from the NASCAR official, he was reminded that he hadn’t done his signature bow.
Busch laughed. “I forgot. It’s been a really long time.”
The relief of Busch extending his win streak to 16 years was evident as his celebrated. Busch seemed looser as well as more joyful than he has in quite a while. His TV interview was fun and genuine.
As he sat waiting for a push to victory lane, Busch smirked at the camera, “I got this. Got nothing but time.”
Busch also joked that he told Coy Gibbs he was good for the year and retiring — he didn’t need to show up at Martinsville and Phoenix. But while it hasn’t been the year he and his team are accustomed to, Busch said there is not about to quit.
“The opportunity of being able to continue the win streak is huge, and I say that because there’s a lot of people that put the pressure on me, on us as the 18 team, that we need to win,” said Busch. “We should win. We have to win. All of that stuff kind of weighs on you a little bit, but to be honest with you, they’re right. I’m not self‑touting.
“I have been told by many a folk that I’m one of the best here, that’s been here, and to have that opportunity with myself and my team and the people that are around me, to go out there and win races, it makes sense. Like you should be able to win a race, races every year that you’re out there for a long time to come. Obviously, every great thing I guess must come to an end eventually, but man, I’m only 35. I feel like I’ve got at least 10 more years left in me. There should be a great opportunity for this streak to go for a long, long time, and that’s why it’s been so stressful and has not felt very good to have this dry spell.”
With Martinsville only four days away, Busch doesn’t have much time to enjoy his win — not that he is going to savor it any more than any of the others, he said. But it certainly felt good to win, and now Busch shifts to getting two more before the year is over.
“We want to go to Martinsville and run up front, try to win that one,” said Busch. “Go to Phoenix, let’s spoil the championship party and not see the champion have to be the winner.”