RACING

The Busch Breakdown – performance analysis in Kyle’s own words

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Kyle Busch seemed to be waiting for an opportunity.

Sitting on stage for his weekly media availability at Richmond Raceway, the two-time series champion heard a question about whether this had been one of the most mentally taxing years of his career.

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Many recent headlines around Busch have focused on ongoing contract negotiations with Joe Gibbs Racing, but there have also been questions about learning a new car and a racing streak that went all but. gone well for the No. 18 team.

So, was this one of the most mentally taxing years for Busch?

“Yes, of course,” he said.

And then it happened.

“Please wait,” Busch said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPhone. “I get my facts right here.”

Busch did indeed have the facts. It wasn’t a webpage of his results or race summaries written by the team after each race. They were in a long breakdown by race that Busch had written in the notes app on his phone.

“Okay, let’s throw in some facts – which are performance – over optics – which are results,” Busch said before reading the list.

“Sonoma: collectively, JGR – we’ve all sucked,” he said.

Busch finished 30th in Sonoma. The top-ranked Toyota was its brother Kurt Busch in 18th place.

“Nashville: We were P2, led the most laps, could have, should have won the race barring a strategic call at the end,” Busch said. “Road America: [The] the driver made a mistake; path to the pit [was] on the wall too soon; speeding penalty. The race went green until the end.

“Atlanta: good car; led from 19th to top three in the first moto. We had a hiccup on pit road [and] we were involved in the following crash. New Hampshire: We shot twice; we weren’t very good. Our teammates were a bit better than us, obviously; was still able to save a 12th.

Busch incredibly didn’t hit anything and wasn’t hit by anyone else in any of his rounds. A teammate, Christopher Bell, won the race while another, Martin Truex Jr., led a record race 172 laps from pole.

“Pocono: one of the three best cars of the day; led the most laps; completed P2 before Hall of Fate,” Busch said.

The No. 18 led 63 laps at Pocono and crossed the finish line second to teammate Denny Hamlin, but he and Hamlin’s cars were both disqualified after the race for duct tape on the front fascia.

“Back in the days of the Indy road course, we were probably a 10th to 12th place car,” Busch said. “We got into the top 10 [and] we just passed car #2 [Austin Cindric] leading to the penultimate caveat of the day and the #2 car ended up finishing second, fighting its way through all the chaos at the end, and we didn’t. I think I finished 11th on that one; was still able to go from 24 to 11 on this latest reboot.

In the last eight races – from Sonoma to Michigan – an 11th-place finish at Indianapolis is Busch’s best result. In six of those races he finished 20th or worse.

“A lot of bad luck in there, and it’s not indicative of how we raced,” Busch concluded, putting down his phone. “So if we can just finish where we ran, we’re not left out. I feel like we’re still pretenders.

As for the contract, there is no new update on what Busch will do in 2023, but he also noted that this isn’t the first time he has had to work on a new contract. That doesn’t make it any easier though they want to stay where he is, and Gibbs and Toyota want him to continue to be their driver.

“It’s just a matter of being able to put all the pieces in the right place,” Busch said. “It’s not as simple as a seven-year-old puzzle. It’s a 50 year old puzzle just with the number of pieces and how long it took. We are still working through it all.

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