It’s not easy for an athlete to roll up more victories than anyone else and still be widely regarded by fans of the sport as a loser, but Kyle Busch has managed to do it in NASCAR.
Busch is a talented driver who deserves respect for what he’s done on NASCAR’s top race circuit, but critics lash out at him for padding his win total at the expense of competitors in lesser series. So, his disqualification this weekend after winning an Xfinity Series race had his detractors giddy.
Deduct one from Kyle Busch’s win column
Kyle Busch took the checkered flag Saturday, July 18, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, but the celebration was short-lived; Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota failed the post-race inspection by being out of compliance with the height requirements, sending him to last place in the official results. Austin Cindric was elevated to first place for his third victory of the season.
The last Xfinity Series race winner to be disqualified was another JGR driver. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota also failed to meet the height requirement last August at Darlington Raceway.
It would be an exaggeration to say Twitter lit up with reactions to Busch’s disqualification, but there certainly were race fans who saw it as poetic justice.
Just as Busch’s Xfinity win was short-lived, so was the critics’ glee over the disqualification. Busch came back later in the day to win the truck series race.
Kyle Busch wins a lot at every level
Kyle Busch is the winningest driver in NASCAR history, though the achievement has an asterisk attached to it because he regularly competes in NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races – sometimes in the same weekend.
There’s a term for drivers who are regulars in the top race series but also compete in the Xfinity Series, but “Buschwhacker” wasn’t coined in reference to Kyle Busch. Rather, it came into usage when Anheuser-Busch was sponsoring the series. After Nationwide, the insurance company, took ownership of the rights, some started calling it “claim jumping.” Those who run in the truck series are sometimes said to be “tail-gating.”
NASCAR has tightened the rules in recent years to reduce the number of lower-division races that stars like Busch can enter, but Busch remains a consistent winner. He owns 56 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series (Including 27 from 2015-19), 96 in the Xfinity Series, and 59 in the truck series for 212 in all.
That puts Busch 12 trips to victory lane ahead of Richard Petty, who had been the all-time leader. Petty is one of the most beloved figures in the sport, so the man breaking his record was going to be in for some of the same treatment Hank Aaron received as he pursued Babe Ruth’s home run mark.
Doing it by racing in three series served to make Busch an easier target.
Kyle Busch’s wins come at the expense of others
Critics go after Kyle Busch each time he wins an Xfinity Series race or triumphs in the NASCAR truck series because they see his competing there as taking away opportunities from two sets of drivers – the veterans who rely upon sponsorships and race purses to continue their careers and the younger drivers who are trying to work their way up to the NASCAR Cup Series.
In that regard, every lap Busch leads on TV, every photo published of his car taking the checkered flag, and every interview he does in victory lane takes valuable exposure away from other drivers.
Even some of the other NASCAR Cup drivers understand the long-term implications associated with Busch owning a team in the truck series, where he has won 29 of his last 51 times out, and for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series.
In February, driver Kevin Harvick established a “bounty” by offering $50,000 to any full-time driver beating Busch in one of the next four truck races. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis said he was so confident in Busch that he would throw in an additional $50,000 to the bounty pot.
Busch is 3-for-5 in the truck series this season.