The Persevering Greatness of Kyle Busch
It’s not just what Kyle Busch has accomplished that has him in the greatest ever conversation in the NASCAR Cup Series but the circumstances in which he’s achieved it.
With a victory in the aptly named Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway, Rowdy added to that legacy in some pretty distinct ways.
First, Sunday marked the 58th time Busch has won at the highest level, which tied him with Kevin Harvick for ninth on the all-time wins list.
It’s also the most amongst all active competitors.
As if that wasn’t enough, 2021 is now the 17th consecutive season that Busch has earned a NASCAR Cup Series victory since breaking through as a 20-year-old rookie in 2005. That was back when he was just considered The Younger Brother of Kurt Busch.
Busch The Younger is now tied with David Pearson for second on the consecutive wins list and is just one victory next year away from matching Richard Petty.
Petty, Pearson, Busch — that’s an impressive list.
“It gives me chills,” Busch said. “I don’t know if I just got a chill from the air-conditioning turning or actually hearing that, but it’s meaningful. It’s a huge accomplishment. … Being able to do it 17 years now and hopefully (for years to come) … there aren’t very many things that you’re going to beat The King at — that’s for darned sure.”
By the way, Busch won the race at Kansas on his 36th birthday too.
Busch arguably has just short of another decade of his prime years remaining before most modern drivers even start to lose a tenth, meaning there’s a real opportunity for the two-time champion to massively extend each of these achievements.
A few more championships? The current playoff format is completely unpredictable, but never say never. How about 25 consecutive seasons with at least one Cup Series win. Absolutely doable.
Like Busch said, there aren’t a lot of Richard Petty records that can easily be touched, so maybe seven championships alongside Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt isn’t realistic.
Obviously, 200 wins isn’t happening nor is Pearson’s 105.
Jeff Gordon’s 93 is mathematically improbable. But how about Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip at 84, or Jimmie Johnson at 83? Shoot for the moon, Rowdy.
“Last year was a tough year only getting one, so that definitely hurt the yearly average,” Busch said. “We’ve got to get back on that. I’m telling Ben (Beshore, crew chief) every day (that) we’ve got to win 10 races this year so I can get that average back up.”
All joking aside, Busch doesn’t even allow himself to get wrapped up in the overall number of Cup wins because that’s a rabbit hole of what ifs.
“I can’t tell you how many wins we’ve thrown away or missed out on versus the ones we’ve stolen, you know what I mean,” Busch said. “I don’t even know where the win total really could be.”
That’s such a Nick Saban, Bill Belichick-esque response that is so indicative of Busch and his never-ending pursuit of professional perfection.
“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,” Busch said. “Even if I got to 100 wins in the Cup Series, and man, that would be amazing, but then I’d always wonder if I could have had 130.
“It’s just a matter of continuing to persevere and push through.”
That’s the how behind the what that’s driven his greatness.
When Busch won just once in 2020, he requested that certain changes be made to the engineering group on his No. 18 team. Crew chief Adam Stevens refused, and Busch agreed to part ways with the engineer behind both championships and half his wins.
That’s how he came to be paired with Beshore over the winter.
“We’re expected to win,” Beshore said. “When you’ve got a two-time champion like Kyle Busch, you expect to go out there and run up front in the top 5 every race and just be there at the end.”
But speaking of the what-ifs, consider what Busch had to push through to win five times in 2015 en route to his first championship after breaking a foot and ankle during Speedweeks.
That streak could have ended there and didn’t.
Busch and his wife, Samantha, have been very forthright and transparent about their fertility challenges. For over eight years, the couple have found themselves on an emotional rollercoaster that included a miscarriage and two In vitro fertilization attempts.
It challenged their marriage.
“Kyle was my rock and it felt like I didn’t have that anymore,” Samantha told PEOPLE Magazine earlier this year. “We were spiraling. It felt like divorce was real and it was scary.”
Through it all, Busch continued to race at a high-level, while answering every question about what all of it has meant for their family and young son, Brexton.
“I wouldn’t say I necessarily thought about it racing, during the race today, but obviously getting out of the car and winning on my birthday … the ups and the downs. Boom! That instantly kind of triggered the thoughts of the infertility journey.
“It’s crazy when you can do everything you think is the right way to do it and the doctors tell you everything is great and everything is the way it needs to be and it looks amazing, and it just doesn’t work.
“It’s like, well, why? Obviously, there’s a greater factor that’s involved that just isn’t favoring us yet.”
It would be easy for Busch to have that bleed over into his own racing career, or into the Truck Series and driver development team he operates, or even on the energy drink company he launched, but it didn’t.
So, Busch now sits at 58 wins at 36 years old, having won for a 17th consecutive season at the highest level, with no shortage of distractions or challenges over the past decade.
That’s how he should be remember when he gets enshrined into the Hall of Fame someday.
Not the numbers, but the circumstances surrounding each story behind every individual win, championship or achievement.
That includes twice winning on his birthday.
“There’s no better day to win I guess than on your birthday,” Busch said. “You get to party twice. We’ll see how all that turns out tonight. Actually, we’re celebrating on Tuesday, so we’re going to have a fun time on Tuesday.”
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