A week after one of the biggest disappointments in his storied NASCAR career, Kyle Busch scored his first Cup win with Richard Childress Racing.
It’s not hard to imagine that this could have been his fourth victory of the year. And it makes one wonder how many more races he’ll win this year.
“Welcome to RCR, the first (win) of many,” spotter Derek Kneeland said on the radio after Busch crossed the finish line Sunday for his fifth Cup win at the track, 61st career Cup victory and 225th win in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.
Busch moved in the offseason to the No. 8 car that Tyler Reddick drove to three wins last year. Busch has come close to winning every race he’s run this year with the team.
The difference Sunday?
“First race nobody ran into me,” Busch said.
He was sixth in the Clash when contact by Joey Logano spun Busch. He recovered to finish third.
Busch led two-thirds of the way through his Daytona qualifying race when a bump from Daniel Suarez wrecked him.
Busch led the 500-mile mark in the Daytona 500, but a spin by Suarez less than three laps from the scheduled end sent the race into overtime. Busch lost the lead in the first overtime and was collected in a wreck in the second overtime, making the future Hall of Famer 0-for-18 in the sport’s biggest race.
After emerging from the infield care center last weekend, Busch lamented his misfortune at Daytona, saying: “It’s just par for the course. Used to it. Come down here every year to just find out when and where I’m going to crash and what lap I’m going to come out of the care center.”
It would have been so fitting for Busch to have won the Daytona 500 in his first attempt with RCR. It would have come 25 years after Dale Earnhardt won his only Daytona 500.
Instead, Busch has to wait 51 more weeks for his next chance to win that race, but he doesn’t have to wait any longer to break a record he shared with Richard Petty.
Busch’s victory Sunday marked the 19th consecutive Cup season he has won at least one race, passing Petty for the all-time mark.
“There’s not very many records that you can beat that Richard Petty has, and certainly that was one that I set early on a long, long time ago that I always wanted to achieve and get,” Busch said. “So I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to set that bar and would love to continue to keep raising it.”
Next among active drivers on that list is Joey Logano, who has won at least one race 11 consecutive seasons. He’ll have to keep winning until 2031 to top Busch — provided Busch’s streak does not continue after this season.
If Logano can’t top whatever mark Busch ends with, it likely will be the mid-2030s before anyone else could come close. Chase Elliott possibly.
That’s well into the future, well after Busch’s driving career ends.
By then, we’ll be able to judge just how significant a move it was for Busch to join Richard Childress Racing after having spent the previous 15 seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. When JGR was unable to find a new sponsor for his team last year, it set in motion Busch’s move.
A summer of uncertainty wore on Busch, who said last August that the ordeal had been “hard as hell.” His days were spent pondering not only his future but that of Kyle Busch Motorsports and all of its employees.
“The last time I went through (changing rides) was 15 years ago, and it was a learning experience,” Busch said last August at Watkins Glen. “It was hard then, too, but it was nothing like now. Then it was just me, myself and I.”
The opportunity to run with RCR began with a phone call from future teammate Austin Dillon, who remembered how Busch once offered him a ride with Busch’s Xfinity team.
“It kind of blew me away because I’ve always been known as the only reason I’ve got a ride is because my grandfather,” Dillon said last September after Busch’s move to RCR was announced. “So he was one of the only guys to offer me a ride other than my grandfather.
“I always remembered that about Kyle.”
That phone call led to Busch getting the chance to bow before the sold-out crowd at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday for the first time after a Cup race since last April’s Bristol dirt race win.
Until Sunday, Busch had only four wins in his last 109 Cup races. He had 18 races in the 109-race stretch before his recent dry spell.
One can only imagine what the future will be like for Busch and RCR.
“I felt like there was going to be a little bit of a learning experience, a little bit of a growth pattern, but also on the flipside of that, I always just kind of looked back and watched some of their results and success that they had last year with Austin,” Busch said. “He ran second here last year, and Reddick was super, super fast. They were fast at the Clash before they broke, the 8 car was.
“It’s just been really, really cool, and it’s been a great piece of — we’re making history, right, but a great piece of opportunity to go out there and continue to win races at a new team with RCR.”
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Long: Kyle Busch celebrates first of what could be many wins with RCR originally appeared on NBCSports.com