Heading into the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway, Kurt Busch hadn't won a NASCAR Cup Series race before July in a season since 2017, when he won that year's Daytona 500. Busch has typically gotten into his grove after the middle of the season in recent years, but his recent win at Kansas shows the 43-year-old NASCAR vet can still get it done at the sport's highest level.
While Busch dominated for the majority of the race, he was forced to make up some ground in the end after falling behind. Busch was able to surge back to the top in the race's final laps and best the "Kyle and Kyle" show of Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, who placed second and third, respectively. Bubba Wallace, Busch's 23XI Racing teammate, placed 10th.
Busch's win marks his 34th Cup Series victory and his first with 23XI Racing, which is co-owned by Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan. Sporting the "Jumpman" paint scheme and racing suit, Busch was clearly channeling the do-whatever-it-takes-to-win mindset of one of the ultimate sports GOATs. It's an infectious mindset, even for someone like Busch, who's a NASCAR Cup Series champion and has been competing in NASCAR for nearly 25 years.
"I felt like I had to play like the GOAT, race like the GOAT," Busch, whose No. 45 car was designed to replicate a "Black Cement" Air Jordan 3 shoe, said in a post-race interview.
Busch's win was wildly celebrated through the 23XI Racing organization, especially during a year where the team has struggled to find its footing. Denny Hamlin, for one, couldn't have been happier to get that first victory of 2022.
"Just can't thank Kurt enough," Hamlin said. "Jordan Brand's first race. So jealous he gets to drive that car and then to have that thing so fast there. I have never had, certainly, this kind of feeling even for a win for me much less when I did win, so it's just different."
Hamlin added that he spoke with MJ following the win and passed on the news that his fellow co-owner was "so excited" over Busch's victory.
"Kurt ran a great race today and I'm so happy for him, the 45 crew and the entire 23XI Racing team," Jordan said in a statement of his own. "This win showed why Kurt is a champion and why we brought him on board."
Jordan's statement was no doubt a pretty boilerplate reaction, particularly from a man who isn't one to mince words. Though, knowing Jordan, he's likely already looking ahead to that next win. Bubba Wallace, you're up!
Kurt Busch Recalls His First Team Meeting With Michael Jordan
Same energy. pic.twitter.com/DtGGnGl9yV
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 15, 2022
When someone like Michael Jordan approaches you for the opportunity to team up with him in a sports-related venture, you jump at the opportunity. Kurt Busch was no different.
During a interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio back in November 2021, Busch gave some further insight into what that initial meeting with Jordan was really like.
"I mean he is the GOAT," Busch said. "The situation, the way it all came together, it was this impressive meeting out in Sonoma earlier this summer. Right away, I got along with him. Just with the way he was chill but also presented this aura about him. 'We will win. We are here to win. This is what this is about.' And it was like, 'Yes sir.' He's like, 'Don't call me sir.' I said, 'Alright, let's win.'"
Busch continued, "It was just easy right away to piece together what the contract is. Monster Energy was incredibly excited about it. Toyota, they were the ones behind the scenes, kind of pushing for a veteran to jump in the program and move the needle with 23XI. I've raced a long time for a lot of different legendary owners and Hall of Famers in NASCAR. MJ definitely has a different presence about him."
Busch was brought on as a 23XI Racing driver to serve as the team's veteran presence, which is a role that he reiterated his commitment towards during the interview.
"There's young engineers and young crew members that are eager to learn, and all the knowledge that I have in certain areas, I'd love to kind of transfer it off to certain guys," said Busch. "Then, with Bubba, we want him to jump into the program with a mindset to win and to be there at another level next year."
Busch and Wallace each have one win with 23XI Racing, with Wallace earning his first win at last year's rain-shortened playoff race at Talladega and Busch earning his at the 2022 AdventHealth 400.
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