As Kyle Busch’s tenure in the NASCAR Cup Series grows longer, it becomes increasingly harder to find things he hasn’t accomplished.
Busch, a two-time series champion, is in his 17th full season at the premier level and has won nearly everywhere on the schedule. Actually, he had won at every active track on the Cup Series schedule until NASCAR recently added new venues. Even still, winning Sunday at Kansas Speedway is a significant victory for a few reasons.
Following a tough 2020, in which it took Busch until race 34 to find Victory Lane (after already being knocked out of championship contention), he grabs a win early in the season. As a revamped No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team, led by new crew chief Ben Beshore, continues to grow and find its footing on track, Busch is looking at another playoff appearance and shot at a third championship. Speaking of Beshore, the win is the first for him in the series, and the first of what Gibbs hopes is many more for him and Busch.
All of that is just going through the motions, though. Busch winning early, as his team establishes itself in the pecking order, also has a historical touch. Busch has now won at least one race in 17 consecutive seasons, which ties him with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. Additionally, it is one behind Richard Petty’s all-time mark of winning in 18 straight seasons.
“It gives me chills,” Busch says. “I don’t know if I just got a chill from the air conditioning or actually hearing that. It’s meaningful. It’s a huge accomplishment. I feel like any accomplishment that’s still out there to be achieved, to get it is something to be honored with.
“Being able to do it 17 years now and hopefully, go on into 18, 19, 20, whatever it is… there’s definitely not very many things that you’re going to beat The King at, that’s for darn sure. Hopefully, we can continue that tradition and then make sure that we get to 18, get to 19, and so on.”
Winning with Beshore is noteworthy for another reason. Busch has worked with five different crew chiefs in his career, driving for Rick Hendrick (2005-2007) and Joe Gibbs (2008-present). Through all the ups and downs racing can throw one’s way, Busch has won races with each of those crew chiefs.
“It’s a big deal to win,” Beshore says. “It’s a lot of pressure to win. We’re expected to win. When you’ve got a two-time champion like Kyle Busch, you expect to go out there and run up front in the top five every race and just be there at the end. So yeah, it was a big deal.”
Beshore replaced Adam Stevens, who guided Busch to both of his titles. But after five seasons and 28 wins together, the relationship between Stevens and Busch had run its course. Beshore was the next man up to get Busch back on track, his resume consisting of serving as a crew chief in 66 races in the Xfinity Series and working on Busch’s Cup team as a race engineer.
“I’d be lying if I said I wanted to wait until the 11th or 12th race and that being our first win,” says Beshore. “I would have liked to fire off a little bit better and maybe get one earlier, but it didn’t work out. But we got one here (Sunday), so really excited about that. Really happy for all the guys on this team that put in a ton of work to get this car as fast as they can. All the preparation back at the body shop, the chassis shop, just a huge deal for all those guys.
“It was good to see all the Joe Gibbs cars up there and having speed, and happy we were able to come away with the checkered flag.”
Numbers are Busch’s thing. He is the all-time winningest driver in both the Xfinity Series (97) and Camping World Truck Series (61), and proclaimed years ago that getting to 100 in the Xfinity Series is the goal. When he gets there, Busch plans on retiring from the series.
In Cup, he’s keeping track of all the tracks to conquer. Keeping his winning streak alive became a big storyline last year. The deeper he went into 2020 without a win, the more Busch referenced that – more than the topic of competing for a championship that he knew would be a tall task for his team.
One more thing. Busch has moved into a tie with Kevin Harvick for ninth on the all-time wins list in the Cup Series with 58 victories.
“It’s cool and all, but to be honest with you, I can’t tell you how many wins we’ve thrown away or missed out on versus the ones we’ve stolen,” Busch says. “I don’t even know where the number total really could be. I think that’s the biggest thing that kind of sticks in my mind, is the ones that got away, and you’re never going to get them back. Even if you got to 100 wins in the Cup Series, man, that would be amazing, but then I’d always wonder, ‘well, hell, I could have had 130.’
“It’s just a matter of continuing to persevere and push through. Last year was a tough year, only getting one, so that definitely hurt the yearly average. We’ve got to get back on that. I’m telling Ben every day we’ve got to win 10 races this year so I can get that average back up. Realistically, though, if you can have five-win seasons, that’s exactly where you need to be. Hopefully, we can continue to keep this roll going and get ourselves where we need to be.”