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Kyle Busch is running triple duty this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, beginning with Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series Race.
Of course that means there will be ample opportunity for people to complain he’s “stealing” wins and money from the series regulars, something that’s become a common practice any time the younger Busch brother competes in one of the lower series.
But here’s a novel concept for you: What if I said Busch’s presence in the Truck Series is actually a good thing?
By now, many have already closed this article, but if you’re still here, hear me out before you send your hate mail.
When Busch purchased the assets of the now-defunct Xpress Motorsports, Kyle Busch Motorsports made its debut in 2010, and since then, the owner/driver hasn’t piloted a truck that he didn’t own. And frankly, that’s probably the most important aspect to remember about his presence in the series.
Sure, you could make the argument that he should give those races to younger drivers who need or deserve a ride, however you have to consider that Busch is part of the reason why his team has the sponsorship backing it does. Talent does bring in companies for financial backing, however a proven winner like Busch is a much easier sell than a rookie who has little-to-no experience in the Truck Series.
Additionally, there are several young, incredibly talented drivers who might not be as far as they currently in their careers if not for their starts at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Erik Jones, currently driving a brand new second team for Furniture Row Racing, was hand-picked by Busch for his Truck Series team in 2015. He went on to win Rookie of the Year and the championship in the same season before moving on to compete in the XFINITY Series for 2016 ahead of a full Cup season this year.
Need a more recent example? How about William Byron, the most recent back-to-back winner in the XFINITY Series? Stepping into the team fresh off of its championship run with Jones, expectations were high for the newest rookie Busch put behind the wheel. And boy did he impress in his single season with seven wins, 11 top fives and 16 top-10 finishes in an almost-championship season that was spoiled only by a blown motor at Phoenix.
Want another one? Simply take a look at the lineup for KBM this year. You have Noah Gragson and Christopher Bell running full-time, while Todd Gilliland, Myatt Snider, Harrison Burton and Busch split seat time in the third truck.
At this point, Burton and Gilliland aren’t even old enough to race in the series full-time anyway, and Snider has scheduled starts in ARCA, CARS Late Models and the Whelen All-American Series this year. And frankly, having Busch to lean on, especially for the raw, not fully developed talent, is a huge benefit for the young drivers.
“Obviously Kyle Busch Motorsports is a household name,” Gragson said in a pre-season interview with Frontstretch. “I would say they have the best program in the Camping World Truck Series with what they’ve been able to do.
“I’ve been talking with Kyle (Busch) a lot lately, just asking for advice. Thankfully I’m in a position where I can lean on experience like a Kyle Busch, one of the best that the Cup Series has ever seen.”
Still need another reason for Busch to race in the series? How about his ability to give the organization a champion’s perspective on the race setups? Sure, each driver has their own preference for how their truck should handle on race day, however Busch’s experience gives him an advantage that others don’t have: seat time.
Having run nearly every track on the schedule already, Busch has the ability to give feedback that only comes from prior knowledge of how the truck should perform on any given track. That, of course, also allows for him to show his drivers the best lines to run when he’s racing in the series against them.
But Busch isn’t just a mentor to those who drive for his team. Several drivers in the Truck Series have said before that they enjoy racing against Busch because they can learn something from him, putting him in a mentor role, even if he’s not actually talking to them and sharing advice.
In fact, earlier this season, Ben Rhodes, who engaged in a spirited battle with the 2015 Cup champion at Kansas Speedway, said he learned a lot from the competition for the top spot.
“Racing with Kyle (Busch) for the lead was a dream come true,’ Rhodes said of the spirited battle. “It’s so cool to run with him like that because I’ve looked up to him my whole life. I was able to learn from him because like I said, he’s got more wins in XFINITY and Trucks than I have total stock car starts. It’s crazy that I was able to learn from such a guy.
“He played these games out there all night along and I was finally able to pick up on them – because I choked on them several times last year – now I was able to play a couple of games on him. I guess if there were any positives in this, that was it, I learned.
“I started learning what he did in the second stage of the race,” Rhodes elaborated. “I pulled a couple games on him in the beginning, and I was able to swing past him on the outside. He learned from that and he played some games with me and made me go low. We battled and battled and battled him; we hung tough on the bottom, and by doing that, I learned from it and I was able to go into the third stage and make a clean pass because of that.
“Had he not done that, I don’t think I would have learned it and maybe not even have gotten past him. He is literally the best in the business at restarts, and this is probably the most restart sensitive restart track we go to all year.”
The good news for all of you who don’t want him racing in the Truck Series is Busch only has three more starts allowed, per NASCAR’s rules limiting Cup drivers with more than five years of experience to participate in just seven races. And that includes tonight’s event too.
But the bottom line is, whether you like him or not, Busch is a huge benefit to the series in many ways, and he has every right to participate if that’s his choice.
- A pair of familiar faces will join the Truck Series when it rolls into Eldora Speedway for the annual dirt-track race. Bobby Pierce will once again run for MB Motorsports, while Rico Abreu makes his return to the ThorSport Racing for the event. As a reminder, FOX Sports moved to the race to the FOX Business Channel in favor of soccer.
- Truck Series teams ran a pair of practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway Wednesday, ahead of Thursday night’s race. Grant Enfinger led the first sesson, while Kyle Busch topped the second. Chase Briscoe cut a tire and was forced to a backup truck following a crash he called the “hardest hit of my life.”