This year alone, Kyle Busch has been at odds with NASCAR on multiple occasions. In September, the conduct of the two-time Cup Series champion at Darlington resulted in a $50,000 fine. Just two weeks ago at Texas, an upset Busch provided a NASCAR executive’s email over the radio during a race.
When NASCAR President Steve Phelps appeared as a guest on the I Am Athlete-NASCAR podcast, it wouldn’t have been surprising for him to talk about Busch and his behavior, which is something the driver candidly discussed on an episode of the podcast earlier this year. However, Phelps didn’t have a bad word to say about the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, but instead called him out for his career achievements on the track and paid him one of the highest compliments you can give a driver.
Kyle Busch has a pair of wins and a pair of notable run-ins with NASCAR in 2021
In September at Darlington, Kyle Busch lost it. For the second time in as many weeks, he had finished 34th or worse. Immediately after wrecking in Stage 2, he headed straight to the garage. On his way, he aggressively drove down pit road, ran through a barricade of cones, and sent race personnel scrambling. A couple of days later, NASCAR fined him $50,000 for his actions.
Fast-forward to Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month. Busch was unhappy with his performance on the track and the overall racing conditions due to the standard 550 HP package used on 1.5-mile tracks. During the race, he directed his frustration over the radio at NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell.
“Race fans, if you enjoy this accordion-style racing, please send your email to (O’Donnell’s email address),” Busch said.
He provided clarification to the media after the race on whether his pointed message to O’Donnell was about the tires used.
“No, the package,” he said. “Every time you run somebody down, then they accordion you backwards, and then you run them down, and then they accordion backwards. It’s terrible. It’s a joke. But sign me up for more, I guess.”
Steve Phelps calls Kyle Busch one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history
NASCAR President Steve Phelps, who worked in NFL marketing for 14 years, recently appeared on the I Am Athlete-NASCAR podcast and talked about his experiences in the league with the show’s three co-hosts, all of whom are former players — Brandon Marshall, Fred Taylor, and Channing Crowder.
Late in the conversation, Marshall asked Phelps to identify the top five players he worked with during his tenure at the NFL, based on a combination of the player’s marketing and athletic ability. In no particular order, he listed Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders, John Elway, Emmitt Smith, and Jerry Rice.
A few minutes later, Marshall then had Phelps match those top five players with their equivalent NASCAR drivers, past or present. He said Manning’s NASCAR equivalent is Jeff Burton, John Elway’s is Jimmie Johnson, Emmitt Smith’s is Joey Logano, Jerry Rice’s is Richard Petty, and Barry Sanders’ equivalent is Kyle Busch.
“I’ll tell you why,” Phelps said of Busch. “Because I think Barry Sanders is one of the best running backs of all time, if not the best. And I think Kyle Busch is one of the best drivers of all time, if not the best.”
Busch’s career numbers back up Phelps’ claim
At just 36 years old, Kyle Busch has already put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Two Cup Series championships in 2015 and 2019 are impressive enough, but the JGR driver already has 59 wins to his credit, which is good enough for ninth all-time, behind Dale Earnhardt’s 76 victories. And those are just his Cup stats.
With the Xfinity Series, Busch is undeniably the greatest driver in the series’ history with 102 wins. Remarkably, the next closest is Mark Martin at 49. Add in that Rowdy is also the all-time wins leader in the Truck Series with 61 victories, and it’s hard to argue with Phelps’ assessment that Busch might be the greatest ever.
At his age and with his talent, there should be plenty more victories before he retires, which will help him steadily climb up the list for most all-time wins in the Cup Series.
And that’s why, despite his sometimes petulant behavior, Busch is one of the most respected drivers in NASCAR history: His actions have spoken louder than his words for years and will continue to do so for years to come.
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