KANSAS CITY, Kan. – NASCAR'S Kyle Busch is making this look way too easy.
Busch not only leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings, but he has been relentless in his assault of the record book.
Busch, 34, has won a series-most three races this season, giving him 54 Cup wins in his career, tying Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 10th on the all-time list, one win behind another Hall of Famer and former series champion, Rusty Wallace.
And even when Busch doesn’t win the race, he’s the driver to beat. Busch has opened the season with 11 consecutive Top 10 finishes, and in Saturday night’s Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway, he can break Morgan Shepherd’s record of 12 straight Top 10s to open the 1990 season.
In fact, Busch, the 2015 Cup champion, has 13 consecutive Top 10 finishes in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota dating to the 2018 season.
“Kyle Busch is the most exciting driver I’ve ever seen drive a stock car,” gushed Hall of Famer and three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, in his 19th season as a Fox television analyst. “The things I’ve seen him do ...
“At California, he came through the pack and he went three wide, a place where there wasn’t room but for two. I saw him do it at Texas… the man puts on a show. When he’s in the race, he is the show. We keep a camera on him. We keep an eye on him because we know he’s going to do something that’s going to be exciting and fun to watch. “
Busch cemented his place in history in the Cup race at California when he won his 200th overall race among NASCAR’s national touring series. Busch, who also has won three Xfinity series and four trucks races this year, is now the sport’s all-time winner across the three national series with 204 victories (54 Cup, 95 Xfinity, 55 trucks), surpassing NASCAR legend Richard Petty’s 200 wins, all in the Cup series.
“It’s been a remarkable run, and it’s been pretty fun, too,” said Busch, who owns one Cup win (2016) and eight straight top 10 finishes at Kansas Speedway. “To hear comments from DW means a lot, he’s one of the guys who helped built our sport and is respected in our sport, and to hear comments from Richard Petty a few weeks ago, where he was complimentary of myself and some other drivers from this era being able to compete with the drivers from his era, and drivers from his era being able to compete with our era.
“To me, I don’t know how to look at it right now, because I’m still competing. If I were in my retirement year or coming close to the end of my last couple of years, I could say, ‘Man, what an awesome career to be in this position …’ but in all reality, people are asking me about being 10th on the all-time list, and I say, ‘Well, I want to be second or third, or whatever. There’s a long ways to go.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs, who coached three Super Bowl champions in Washington during his Hall of Fame career as well as owning four NASCAR Cup championship teams, considers Busch among the all-time greats he’s been around.
In either sport.
“Kyle has the unusual ability of some athletes,” Gibbs said. “I think if he won 500 races, it wouldn’t change. He goes for it every single week. He’s got a determination and a drive that’s just very unusual. I think he is driven by things like records. I know how bad he wanted to be able to win at least one race at every racetrack, and I know … he wants 100 Xfinity wins. That’s a big deal for him, too.
“Sometimes great athletes like that think a little different. He loves the idea of accomplishing some real goals. … Because of that, I think he’s accumulating all the wins that he has.”
The biggest goal, of course, is winning multiple Cup championships, and despite winning 17 races during 2016-18 and advancing to the Championship Four in each of the last three years, Busch has fallen short of a second title.
It could be argued that compared to champions of the past who were rewarded for the performance of an entire season, Busch has been penalized by the current post-season format that comes down to the winner-take-all season finale at Homestead. Since winning the race and championship at Homestead in 2015, he’s finished sixth, second and fourth the last three years.
“It’s definitely a more unknown for Homestead,” Busch said. “Kevin Harvick’s been there like every year, we’ve been good there every year, Martin Truex has been good there the last three years, Joey Logano has been good there every year.
“That’s the top four guys who were there last year, and you throw in a few others who run in the top five when we go there …. It's a matter of who hits it that particular weekend who has the best car and best shot to win that race.”