Changing teams comes with changing scenery, but it’s also come with changing radio communication for Kyle Busch.
“He’s been calling me pal and homie,” Busch said of crew chief Randall Burnett, who oversees the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team.
They’re classic Burnett nicknames — more fitting for Busch, whereas “little buddy” was frequently used with former driver Tyler Reddick.
“I’m a homie,” Busch said. “I can be as good a homie as anybody. All good.”
The Las Vegas native spent 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing working around the same people day in, day out, including crew chiefs. Busch and Burnett have started 2023 strong at RCR as the new duo develops chemistry together.
Burnett is a no-nonsense NASCAR veteran who has always gotten the best from his drivers, but Busch is the first champion Burnett has been a crew chief for and doesn’t need the same type of leadership as a younger driver. Even still, Busch discovered his new crew chief has many leadership qualities that he admires and responds to.
“Adam (Stevens) would probably be my best crew chief that I’ve ever worked with, and it’s probably just a little too early to give Randall that title because I haven’t been around him long enough,” Busch said. “And (Adam and I) also won two championships together, so he gets that accolade.
“But the things Adam would do and the intensity that he would have on a lot of stuff was something I really enjoyed and really liked and Randall has that as well. Randall gets frustrated with some of…our system and things like that, so we see the same things. We have similar philosophies, and we have similar desires. It’s just a matter of being able to go out there and achieve that.
“He’s been super great to work with. I really enjoy working with my two engineers as well. Andrew (Dickeson) and Nate (Troupe) have been super helpful and super receptive to a lot of my thinking and my ways, and we’re putting a lot of that together.”
Busch said everyone talks openly and freely about bettering their equipment. A month into the season, through five points-paying races, Busch hasn’t found anything surprising one way or the other with the team’s performance.
“I think what’s been positive…is we do have top-10 speed,” said Busch. “What’s been frustrating is that we have top-10 speed, so the positive of it is sometimes you expect to go somewhere and it takes a little bit of time, and you might run (top) 15 to 20s to get your footing and then get into the top 10.
“But we’ve already been into the top 10, so now it’s a matter of finding our footing and getting into the top five. Once you’re there each and every week contending, then you’re going to be out there contending for wins.”
After earning a podium in the Busch Light Clash — their first race weekend together — Busch led the season-opening Daytona 500 at the 200-mile mark before coming up short in overtime. In week three, the second points race, Busch, Burnett and the No. 8 team had a dominant second half in Fontana en route to scoring the win.
Entering Sunday’s race at Circuit of The Americas (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX), Busch is seventh in the championship standings with three top-10 finishes. Settled in with a new team, he’s pleased with how things have gone but sees Sunday as an opportunity to contend as they need to.
“I don’t think you’re ever happy unless you’re winning every week, but relatively speaking I feel like we’ve done a good job,” he said of the season-to-date. “There have definitely been some things that we’ve done in (the simulator) that haven’t correlated to the racetrack and that’s been frustrating, so it’s all about fixing that tool and continuing to work and evolve on that.
“We’ve done a lot of work on that – especially with COTA. It’s almost like with as much work as we’ve put into this race, if we don’t win then I don’t know what else you can do. That’s kind of where we’re going to stack up and see how we are against the competition Sunday.”