With his win at Kansas Speedway, Kyle Busch has won a NASCAR Cup Series race in 17 consecutive years. Will he surpass the mark of 18 set by Richard Petty?
Luken Glover: Absolutely. I see Kyle Busch winning at least one race for at least the next few years and easily passing Petty’s record. Now that Busch has another win under his belt, Busch has a restored sense of confidence to go on another run. It may not be absolutely dominant, but his winning ways are here to stay. He’s also one of the best at figuring out new cars, which will go a long way with the Next Gen car.
Josh Roller: Without a doubt. In fact, he will likely surpass 20 before all said and done. It is an understatement to call Busch an amazing talent, but that is what he is. He will adapt to the new car next year and will crank out at least two or three wins. Even if last year winds up being similar to 2020 as far as performance goes, the No. 18 team will get back going again in 2022. Busch will also benefit from practice and qualifying likely returning next season.
Jared Haas: Busch has shown his talents from his young beginnings. There are three drivers — Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick — that competed in Busch’s first career win at Auto Club Speedway in 2005 and last week at Kansas. With his longevity, Kyle Busch’s career is a similar arc to Nolan Ryan of the MLB, careers that have been both lengthy and have many achievements. Busch has another two years in the tank at least to compete at the highest level and beat Petty’s streak.
Alex Gallacher: Short answer, yes. Busch is almost robotic when it comes to racing; the guy nearly always finds a way to win. While fans are divided on his lower series participation, his Cup results are impressive. I see Busch going past 18 and most likely into the 20s.
Dalton Hopkins: If Petty’s streak was 17 years, rather than 18, I would have said yes. Unfortunately for Busch, it’s the latter. We aren’t seeing the typical domination from Busch that we did two years ago. I know that’s funny to say after a weekend where he swept both race wins, but let’s remember last year when Busch narrowly kept the streak alive by winning at Texas Motor Speedway in the waning weeks of the season. Yes, his win at Kansas came early in the season, but it wasn’t a dominant win, and that’s how the Busch of old took his victories.
What is your favorite Darlington Raceway throwback scheme from any year since throwback weekend began?
Haas: A throwback scheme that jumps out was actually ran at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during throwback weekend with John Hunter Nemechek throwing it back to his dad’s Bellsouth days in 2017 in the Camping World Truck Series. The truck ran the familiar colors to what father Joe Nemechek ran in the late ’90s and the same number as John Nemechek, who passed away in 1997 after a crash at Homestead-Miami Speedway. An honorable mention is Harrison Burton running his father’s 2002 Xfinity Series Gain scheme.
Gallacher: Tyler Ankrum‘s Ricky Bobby paint scheme and Brandon Brown‘s Dale Jarrett throwback are currently my two favorites. Ryan Newman missed a great chance to do a Kohler/Mark Martin Viagra throwback, but I guess there is always next year.
Hopkins: There’s so many. When I think of throwbacks and how they tie into the history of the sport, I can’t help but remember Jimmie Johnson’s seven-time champion livery from last year. It was a culmination of all three of the greatest the sport has ever seen wrapped into one package. With that, it was a tip of the hat to some of the greatest in NASCAR and its history. Isn’t that what throwbacks are all about?
Roller: It is difficult to zero in on just one. The instant thought that comes to mind is anything Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing have brought to the track. RCR takes the most time and puts the most care into its throwback paint schemes, especially on the No. 3 car. Plus its sponsors buy into, too, which I wish more sponsors did. As honorable mentions, any team that gets the actual sponsor for the paint scheme they are throwing back to will always get five stars from me.
Glover: It would be easier to throw a bunch of ideas in a hat and draw one out. The soda throwbacks have always been cool with Mello Yello, Coca-Cola, Crush and Dr. Pepper. If I had to choose one, Tony Stewart‘s 2016 Coca-Cola throwback to Bobby Allison was spot on and absolutely magnificent under the lights. They matched the sponsor and colors up, and they also changed the number font. I have to give this year’s honorable mention to Corey LaJoie‘s Zerex throwback to Alan Kulwicki. Spire Motorsports did a great job replicating Kulwicki’s scheme.
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are the only active drivers with multiple Cup wins at Darlington, but both are winless in 2021. Who would you bet on: Harvick, Hamlin or the field?
Roller: That’s easy: Denny Hamlin. He has been Mr. Consistent this season and has only bobbled a few times, and he is always a factor at Darlington. Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing are missing what it takes to run in the top five week in and week out. The field is difficult to pass on, but I think Hamlin gets the job done this weekend at Darlington.
Hopkins: I find it funny how the two drivers that practically dominated the 2020 season are still winless almost a third into 2021. Harvick has shown a little speed in the last couple of weeks with two top fives but has overall had a rough start to the year. Within the first 11 races, Harvick has led 29 laps in 2021. In 2020, he had led 542 by this point in the season. In addition, it’s been a rough start for not just Harvick, but all of SHR in 2021. On the other hand, Hamlin has been consistent the whole year and has been oh-so-close on so many occasions, including last weekend. Plus, there are clearly no problems with Joe Gibbs Racing. All three of his teammates — surprisingly — have wins before their FedEx-sponsored counterpart. It has to be Hamlin. Even against the field, he is long overdue.
Glover: I’m taking the field solely because of Hendrick Motorsports. Sure, none of the HMS guys have won here before, but they have been really good in the past. Chase Elliott arguably should have won two of the three Darlington races a year ago. Kyle Larson has led 500 laps here along with three top fives. William Byron is arguably on the hottest streak in Cup right now and has ran well at times at the Lady in Black in the past. And Alex Bowman led 41 laps in NASCAR’s pandemic return a year ago en route to a second-place result. Hamlin is going to be a threat, but I like the chances of a HMS driver capturing the flag.
Gallacher: Hamlin. The guy has been so close all year, and Darlington is perfect for him to break through. The SHR cars are too slow for some reason this year, and Harvick is struggling. Hopefully that will change soon, because you gotta feel bad for Harvick given his tough end last year.
Haas: I’m going with Hamlin. Harvick has only led at superspeedways and has not been a threat to win this season. SHR has taken a step back in 2021. Harvick might be back to the Closer instead of the Dominator, as he almost eked out a win last week. Hamlin, on the other hand, has been more of threat to win. Hamlin has led laps in all but one race this season. With his good runs, Hamlin has been kept out of victory lane by bad luck with late-race passes both at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Darlington has been a decent track for Hamlin, as he has scored three wins and finished outside the top 20 once in his career at the Lady in Black. The 2021 Cup Series has a fair share of winners who needed to win in due time. Hamlin is due to win a race this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete again in an Xfinity race this fall. What retired driver would you like to see strap in just one more time?
Gallacher: Tony Stewart said he was going to at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series last year, but that never happened. So I say grab Riley Herbst‘s backup car, slap a No. 14 or 41 on it and set Stewart loose at Circuit of the Americas like SHR’s doing with Harvick. Maybe you’re at it, give Romain Grosjean a seat for that race too.
Haas: Ward Burton would be great to have back for a race. He would probably get a radioactive section with just himself rambling about the Next Gen car.
Glover: Definitely Kasey Kahne. Kahne was robbed of a chance to ride out on his own terms. The last time we saw him was at Darlington before his hydration issues got too concerning to carry on. Last May, Kahne did an interview with Jamie Little on FOX Sports. He said that he felt healthy enough to get back into racing and hinted at being open to a return. Any series would be great, too. Remember, this guy won five of his six Truck starts. I would love to see Kahne strap in once again at a track like Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway or Darlington.
Roller: Jeff Gordon. I’ve always wanted to see him and Dale Earnhardt Jr. compete in a Truck race at Martinsville and whoever finishes behind the other gives a predetermined amount of money to the other’s charity of choice. But in the end, both end up giving money to the other’s charity.
Hopkins: It’s fun to see old successful drivers come out of retirement for one last hurrah. It’s not fun to watch them come back and see them become just another field-filler with a lackluster performance. It has happened almost every time save for Greg Biffle in 2019. It should be a driver that cannot only come back but also win. If they can’t do that, then what’s the point? The only name I can think of is Carl Edwards. He was in the top of his prime when he retired and left so suddenly — and mysteriously. Some expected him to come back in 2018 and immediately compete for another championship. Edwards, with his training regimen, certainly has the stamina to come back and immediately kick butt after all these years.