Kyle Busch boldly firing on all cylinders in zenith of NASCAR career

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Kyle Busch No. 18, right, here talking with Kevin Harvick, has 282 career wins at age 34.

Brooklyn, Mich. — Kyle Busch is brash, cocky, definitely confident and not afraid to say what’s on his mind, which makes him the face of the NASCAR Cup series.

Oh, and it helps that Busch knows how to get to Victory Lane … in the Gander Outdoors Truck series, Xfinity and more importantly the premier Cup series. He has 206 career wins over NASCAR’s three series, including 55 in the Cup series.

Busch won the NASCAR Cup series championship in 2015 after suffering a serious injury to start the season at Daytona, then missing 11 races before returning to win five of the final 25 events, including the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While Busch came up short of winning the championship last year despite winning eight races, he has shown he is the driver to beat this season, winning a series-high four races, including last Sunday at Pocono in the No. 18 Toyota Camry for the powerful Joe Gibbs Racing team.

And, Busch is not happy with the new rules package, which has the cars having less horsepower and more drag and downforce where corner speeds are way up and straightaway speeds down, putting the draft more in place for the drivers.

After winning at Pocono, Busch was asked about the rules package and replied: “Stop asking me package questions. I’m done answering them. Next.”

Busch dominated the race, leading 79 laps around the 2.5 mile D-shaped oval. He still had to pass Clint Bowyer on Lap 75 to win the race.

“I don’t know if anybody else passed anybody on the racetrack for the lead like that, but if so, then maybe this package is awesome,” Busch said. “But, that’s all I know.”

Busch showed he will be fast once again Friday at MIS, second on the charts during practice with a lap of 188.729 mph, just behind Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick (188,763) and just ahead of Harvick’s teammate, Bowyer (188.477).

Busch won the August race at MIS in 2011 and finished fourth in the June race last year, then placing third in August.

Qualifying for the FireKeepers Casino 400 is Saturday afternoon with the race set for 2 p.m. Sunday.

Busch hasn’t been successful by accident. He has competed with strong teams, starting with Hendrick Motorsports at age 19 in 2004, winning his first race at age 20, finishing fifth in points in his final year with the team in ’07 before moving on to JGR in 2008, winning eight races in his first year with the team and winning 43 more times the last 101/2 years.

Still, Busch got his love of racing from his father Tom.

“I would have to say that my understanding and my vehicle understandings and the reasons why I’m somewhat successful at what I’ve done is a huge credit to my dad,” Busch said. “Growing up in the shop, working on the cars, building the cars, understanding what springs were and meant and how to rate them and what corners to put them in. Shocks, cambers, casters, all of that sort of stuff I learned.

“I built my cars from the ground up with my dad. I tore my Legends car apart one offseason when we were done racing for the year. I ripped it down to the ground because I thought if I strip it, he will be OK if I wanted to paint it, to repaint the chassis and kind of go through everything. I stripped it all the way down and was like, ‘All right, I’m ready, let’s take it to the paint shop.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’ll buy you a can of spray paint and you can put it all back together by yourself.’ That didn’t work.

“Everybody has their own different paths of how they grow up and how they understand things and what they understand. I’ve certainly learned a hell of a lot through my career and being here and experience and many of these other drivers will as well. It’s just a matter of your surrounding and the people that are around you.”

Kyle Busch

Busch’s older brother, 40-year-old Kurt also has been a successful driver in the Cup series, winning the championship with Livonia businessman Jack Roush in 2004. Kurt won at MIS with Team Penske in 2007 and won again at MIS in 2015 with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Growing up with my dad, he was the one that took me to the race track all the time,” Kyle Busch said. “My mom was there on occasion here or there, but she kind of left and went with Kurt more often then not because when Kurt started touring series, he couldn’t rent a car so she had to go with him to help him and all that so dad was with me.

“I’ve had some fantastic moments and Father’s Day moments. I remember racing on Father’s Day weekend a few times here or there, winning Legends car races or whatever.”

Kyle, who is father to young son Brexton, obviously loves being in a race car (or truck) and is busy as an owner in the Truck series with Kyle Busch Racing (KBR). And, he doesn’t accept mediocrity, making changes with crew chiefs earlier this week.

“Obviously there’s kind of been some struggles with result and success and stuff like that with our two full-time teams,” Busch said. “I’m never happy with being mediocre and not being able to go out there and have our guys perform and do a good job. There’s kind of been some tension a little bit between a couple of the teams so just figured we’d switch it up some. We’re going to try one thing here for a couple weeks and then I’ve got something else up my sleeve for after that.”

Yes, Busch is always trying to be one step ahead of the competition.

Kyle Busch by the numbers

55: NASCAR Cup wins, tied for No. 9 all-time

95: Xfinity wins, No. 1 all-time

56: Trucks wins, No. 1 all-time

282: NASCAR Cup top-10 finishes

31: NASCAR Cup poles

1: NASCAR Cup championships (2015)

1: Xfinity championships (2009)

FireKeepers Casino 400

When: 2 p.m., Sunday

Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn

TV:  FS1

Support race: NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.