Kyle Busch may have lost his way a bit in his final three years at Joe Gibbs Racing — but 15 races into his Richard Childress Racing (RCR) tenure, Busch finds himself back to the level he was at in 2019.
That same year also happens to be the last time Busch won the Cup Series championship. Fifteen races in, Busch's No. 8 team has already won three times, including this past Sunday at Gateway. He is tied with William Byron for the most wins in the Cup Series so far this season. Busch not only won the Enjoy Illinois 300 but also dominated the race, leading 121 of the 243 laps. It also was his first pole for RCR.
His car's owner, Richard Childress, believes Busch is exactly where he needs to be for a shot at the 2023 Cup championship. He also likened his relationship with Busch to what he had with Dale Earnhardt Sr. We all know how that ended: with six championships. Could Busch be in a position to add to his two crowns already?
Richard Childress said Kyle Busch has been a pleasure to work with and he has had none of the issues that people projected he might have with them both being fiery personalities. pic.twitter.com/xlFVFynvtP
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 5, 2023
Busch's win totals in the previous three seasons had dwindled from his historic pace. He hadn't had more than two victories in a season since 2020. He also hadn't won at least three times in a season since his 2019 championship campaign, when he won five times. Now, with the season just over the halfway point, Busch doesn't appear to be slowing down. He is currently second in playoff points to Byron. Those two seem to be the top contenders for the 2023 championship at this point.
Byron's success looks like his arrival, while Busch's success is a big reminder that he is the best of his era. Getting to 63 wins is a big step; and now, at RCR, he has a chance to accomplish a lot more before his career is done. He hasn't gotten in contention alone, as crew chief Randall Burnett has been right by his side. Burnett has the most wins of any crew chief in the Cup Series in the Next Gen car, including three wins with Tyler Reddick in 2022.
Even with a great start through 15 races — with three wins, four top 5s and eight top 10s — both driver and crew chief feel the best is yet to come. They made that point in their post-race press conference.
"I think we've got a lot of potential," Burnett said. "I think we've got a lot to clean up, too, and we talk about it repeatedly. We've had some really fast cars and taken ourselves out of races with some mistakes and things like that. Me and Kyle and our whole group have talked about it, and we know we've all got to clean it up on our end, especially if we're going to compete for the championship."
Busch shared a similar sentiment in his post-win press conference at Gateway. Although he was happy about getting a third win, he also thinks they need to work on the issues when they have rough races if they are going to reach the ultimate goal.
"We've had some really good runs," Busch said. "We've had three wins, obviously, which is great. But we've also had some of the dismal days as well. We've had peaks and valleys so far this year. We just got to find the greater plains, if you will, and level this thing out a little bit."
It is clear the move to RCR was much-needed for Busch, and the pairing has worked out great so far. Burnett also thinks Busch has been important in helping improve the environment at Richard Childress Racing as well.
Can Busch help Childress win his first NASCAR Cup championship since 1994? Only time will tell, but they're sure off to a good start.
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