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Whenever Kyle Busch starts on the pole or wins a race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Twitter lights up with all sorts of criticism of the driver/owner at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
One example of many: “Why you’re even competing in the trucks is beyond me. Let others have an opportunity that YOU already have! How many more lower level trophies does a full-time cup regular need?”
But the problem with this argument is that Busch has given plenty of other racers opportunities. Consider for a moment just how many drivers have competed in Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment in the Truck Series alone. Since its inception in 2010, the organization has hosted quite a few drivers, including the budding Cup stars.
Teams move drivers through their organizations all the time. Why is KBM any different? Simple. Four of today’s up-and-coming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars came from Busch’s team, and so did the driver who’s won the pole for the last NASCAR XFINITY Series races.
It’s still plenty early in his XFINITY career to gauge how Christopher Bell will perform long-term, but the 2017 Truck Series champion has already impressed while behind the wheel of Joe Gibbs Racing equipment in the series. Having scored his first career victory last season, Bell is in good shape to excel this year. That’s not to say there won’t be a learning curve. His first year with KBM wasn’t incredible, however, it wasn’t as awful as it seemed while it was overshadowed by the success teammate William Byron had that year.
Speaking of Byron, that’s another driver KBM has brought to the NASCAR fold and will likely have around for many years to come. After winning the 2016 Truck Series championship, he made the move to the XFINITY Series and promptly scored the championship there in 2017.
This year, Byron made yet another step up in his career, this time to the Cup Series where he’ll remain for many years to come, barring some epic unexpected collapse by the driver who’s shown to be relatively invincible once he gets past the learning curve.
Another first-year driver in the Cup series comes in Darrell Wallace Jr., who had an emotional runner-up finish at Daytona. Sure, he’s had his struggles along the way with sponsorship sidelining what had been a hopefully full-time season last year in the XFINITY Series. But after a successful time subbing for an injured Aric Almirola this season, he’s now full-time with Richard Petty Motorsports. It remains to be seen whether Wallace can help RPM become relevant on a regular basis again, but he’s yet another driver that came to Cup by way of KBM.
Meanwhile, the 2017 season saw former KBM Truck Series drivers Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, both KBM alumni, battle it out for Rookie of the Year. Neither one has found Victory Lane in the Cup Series yet, but that’s not to say they can’t or won’t in the foreseeable future.
Not enough for you? How about last season when Ben Rhodes called racing against Busch for the lead a “dream come true?” Interestingly enough, Rhodes was also able to elaborate, explaining how much he learned from the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Need a more recent example? Look no further than Robby Lyons commenting about Busch’s presence in the Atlanta race.
Unpopular opinion but I really like racing with @KyleBusch and learned a ton from being on track with him this weekend. Like needing to close up on the pace truck. ??? Look forward to having him back in the series and appreciate his commitment. ??
— Robby Lyons (@RLRacing2) February 25, 2018
But what exactly did Lyons learn? He explained that too.
“How to arc it into Turn 3 better, how to hold the yellow line when running the bottom. Trying to keep his pace helped me figure out where our truck was off and what we needed to work on.”
Then, there was Brett Moffitt, who led 27 laps at Las Vegas, fresh off his Atlanta win.
“That’s fun racing with him (Kyle Busch) because he can drive,” Moffitt said. “Half of them can’t. It’s fun because I respect Kyle (Busch) a lot with everything he’s done. It’s fun to race door-to-door with him. People don’t like him coming and racing in the Truck Series, but I love it, because being able to run with him there and learn off him is really good for my career and helps me out, so it’s a lot of fun.”
But what about the argument that Busch could serve as owner in the series without actually taking a starting spot from someone who might have made the field otherwise? I have an answer for that one too. Sometimes, the best way to improve your equipment and your team’s setups is to put one of the best of the best behind the wheel.
In fact, as long as NASCAR allows Cup drivers to run in the lower series, Busch will always make a handful of starts with his team.
“It’s my own team and I’d like to always get out there and have the opportunity to race with my own team,” Busch said Friday during his media availability at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Everybody thinks I just like to go out there and pad my stats and everything else. It’s not like that. It’s entirely to work with the people and try to educate the people.
“I feel like every year we go into the season with new guys and I’m kind of regurgitating the same information sometimes. You have great leadership with the crew chiefs and stuff, but this is (Mike) Hillman’s (Jr.) first full season with us. Last year was Marcus (Richmond)’s first full season with us, so you know it’s hard for Rudy (Fugle) to be able to catch those guys up on exactly everything.
“So when I’m there with the team meetings and stuff like that, we always go over stuff to make sure that we’re a professional organization and we do our job and we hit all of our Ps and Qs and Is and Ts and everything else to make sure that we’re going out there and doing a really good job as if it was a Cup team. That’s what the professionalism of our team is trying to be.”
The point is that whether you like Busch racing in the series or not, his contributions are undeniable. He’s snagged incredible talent from the lower ranks and helped groom them to be a part of NASCAR’s future for many years to come. Sure, he didn’t give these drivers their talent, but he and the people he’s got in place at KBM recognize that talent and lock it down before another team does. And that’s something that I hope never changes in the series.
- Three races into the 2018 season, Johnny Sauter remains as the only driver to finish inside the top five in all three events. The driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet is joined by ThorSport Racing teammates Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes as the only competitors to score top 10s in all races this season.
- Sauter already holds a commanding 39-point lead atop the standings with an average finish of 1.67 in three events. He currently holds six playoff points and is followed closely by Atlanta winner Brett Moffitt, who has five.
- A look at this season’s lap leaders thus far is quite telling. Kyle Busch leads the way with 122, while his next closest competition comes in fellow KBM driver Noah Gragson, who has 55. Sauter isn’t far behind with 51 laps led, but next up on the list is Stewart Friesen with 32 laps led. David Gilliland (30), Brett Moffit (29) and John Hunter Nemechek (13) round out the top seven lap leaders. Eight other drivers have been in front of the field for single digit lap counts.
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