In with the new, out with the new.
That’s the theme of Kyle Busch Motorsports as it continues to put multiple young talents on the scene in NASCAR.
Darrell Wallace, Jr., Erik Jones and William Byron are a few of the rising stars Kyle Busch Motorsports has fielded entries for in the Camping World Truck Series. With the No. 9 team’s owner’s championship in 2016, KBM has won four straight owner’s championships in the Camping World Truck Series with three different teams.
In 2016, KBM won 11 races, seven of them coming via 18-year-old Byron, who drove the No. 9. Byron and co. had the most wins and led the most laps (727) on the season, with Byron finishing fifth in the driver’s championship after blowing an engine at Phoenix Raceway, eliminating the team from the playoffs.
Team owner Kyle Busch, who is second in all-time wins (46) in the series to Ron Hornaday, Jr., said he likes the way the series is heading and has enjoyed developing young talents, moving them up the rankings.
“It’s fun, yet very challenging, and sometimes frustrating,” Busch told Frontstretch. “Sometimes, you see these young kids come in and they have the determination, work ethic and have everything they need. They are just not able to translate it to the racetrack, so you don’t necessarily see them move on and get any better. You see them filter their way back out.”
Nine different drivers have found Victory Lane for KBM in its seven-year existence, Busch leading the way with 31 trophies. Put Cup Series regulars Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne on the list of winners for the race team. But other than that, the majority is all young drivers.
Busch said he believes that the Truck Series is the perfect opportunity for young drivers to produce on the racetrack. Though KBM has become one of the biggest empires in the series, he thinks it is a stepping stone for all talent.
“It’s a huge footprint and staple point in our sport,” Busch said. “It gives younger drivers an opportunity to come in and grow a level and to go out there and succeed and to have a good chance of racing against some elder statesman like a Johnny [Sauter] or [Matt] Crafton to hone their skills. But then they can try to become someone like a William Byron and move onto the next level.”
This season’s Championship 4 saw Sauter win the title but also featured series veterans Crafton and Timothy Peters battling for the title. Combined, these three drivers have 45 years of experience in the top three divisions of NASCAR, compared to Christopher Bell, driver for KBM and also a competitor in the Chase’s final round, who had only two.
Competing against Truck Series veterans has proven to be the first step of advancing through the top three touring series. However, money and marketing has always been a problem in the sport, and is something KBM focuses on teaching its younger drivers.
“You’re always going to have those guys that are on their way down and out to help facilitate racing against those guys and making the competition tough,” Busch said. “It’s a struggle because of how expensive it is, that’s probably the worst part about it, but I think that’s our sport in general these days. Money buys speed, and if we could figure out some ways of cost containment throughout the years, it will continue to get better.”
Busch said he believes that something like the Race Team Alliance (RTA) that the Cup Series supports would be beneficial to the Truck Series as well as the XFINITY Series, specifically owners who don’t field entries in the sport’s top division.
Currently, Busch thinks that he is the leader of the movement, though, he doesn’t want to be. Until someone steps up, similar to what former Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman did, the series will remain the same.
“There is no doubt they are trying to work toward it and make an effort,” he said. “I’ve had some meetings with some of the other owners to discuss various things to try and help out ourselves out continuously. I think the landmark is you have to have someone that takes the lead of it and really facilitate it.”
For 2017, Kyle Busch Motorsports welcomes rookie driver Noah Gragson in an attempt to win another title. Along with Gragson, Todd Gilliland will run four contests and Harrison Burton will compete in six races.
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