Kyle Busch primed for 600th Cup career start at Las Vegas

In his 17th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kyle Busch is set to reach a significant milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Playoff event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which serves as his home track, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry will achieve career start No. 600 in NASCAR’s premier series. In doing so, Busch will also become the 31st different competitor to achieve 600 career starts in the Cup Series.

A native from Las Vegas, Nevada, Busch made his inaugural presence in the Cup circuit at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2004. By then, he was a full-time Xfinity Series competitor for Hendrick Motorsports, competing for both the Rookie-of-the-Year title and the drivers’ championship. Driving the No. 84 Chevrolet for HMS, Busch started 18th and finished 41st in his Cup debut following an early retirement. He competed in five additional races for HMS throughout the 2004 season (Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Auto Club Speedway in September, Kansas Speedway, Charlotte and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in October).

In 2005, Busch earned a full-time ride with HMS for the 2005 Cup season, replacing two-time champion Terry Labonte. Driving the No. 5 Chevrolet, it took the first 25 races of the season for Busch to achieve his first Cup triumph at Auto Club Speedway in September. With his victory, Busch became the youngest winner in Cup history at age 20, four months and two days. He went on to record a second career win at Phoenix Raceway in November following a late battle with Greg Biffle. Despite missing the Playoffs and finishing 20th in the final standings, Busch captured the 2005 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title and in a season where he also earned a pole, nine top-five results and 13 top-10 results.

The following season, Busch achieved his lone victory of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. He went on to make the Playoffs for the first time in his career and achieve a pole, 10 top-five results and 18 top-10 results before finishing in 10th place in the final standings. The year after, Busch claimed his fourth Cup victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in March following a two-lap battle against veteran Jeff Burton. Busch’s Bristol victory was also the first event where NASCAR fielded the Car of Tomorrow stock car. Busch went on to earn 11 top-five results, 20 top-10 results, an average-finishing result of 14.1 and a spot in the Playoffs before finishing in fifth place in the final standings. By then, Busch surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

In June 2007, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Busch will be replaced by Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 2008 season. Two months later, Busch announced that he will be joining Joe Gibbs Racing to pilot the No. 18 Toyota Camry for the upcoming Cup season.

In his first race with Joe Gibbs Racing and paired with crew chief Steve Addington, Busch kickstarted the 2008 season on a high note by finishing in fourth place in the Daytona 500 after leading a race-high 86 of 200 laps. Three races later, Busch achieved his first victory of the season and his first with JGR at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March after leading a race-high 173 of 325 laps. By winning at Atlanta, Busch also recorded the first NASCAR Cup career victory for the Toyota nameplate. 

Following his Atlanta victory, Busch went on to win at Talladega Superspeedway in April, Darlington Raceway in May, Dover International Speedway and Sonoma Raceway in June, Daytona International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway in July and at Watkins Glen International in August, which tallied his Cup win column to 12. By then, he had also achieved 15 top-five results and was leading the regular-season standings. Despite qualifying for the Playoffs and emerging as a title threat, Busch finished outside of the top 20 through the first three Playoff events, which were enough to diminish his championship hopes early. When the season concluded, Busch, who earned four additional top-10 runs through the final 10 races, capped off his first Cup season with JGR in 10th place in the final standings and with a total of eight victories, two poles, 17 top-five results, 21 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 12.5.

In 2009, Busch achieved four victories (Las Vegas and Bristol Motor Speedway in March, Richmond Raceway in May and Bristol in August) along with a pole, nine top-five results and 13 top-10 results. He, however, failed the make the Playoffs by eight points following a difficult summer stretch and went on to finish 13th in the final standings. By then, he was paired with crew chief Dave Rogers. He rallied the following season by winning three times throughout the 36-race schedule (Richmond and Dover International Speedway in May and Bristol in August), collecting two poles, 10 top-five results and 18 top-10 results and making the Playoffs before finishing eighth in the final standings. By then, Busch surpassed 200 Cup career starts and had won 19 career races.

For the majority of the 2011 Cup season, Busch and the No. 18 JGR Toyota team were strong on the track, with the combo winning four races (Bristol in March, Richmond in April, Kentucky Speedway in July and at Michigan International Speedway in August). During the midway section of the Playoffs, however, Busch’s title hopes came to an end as he went on to finish in 12th place in the final standings. The Playoffs was also where Busch was suspended for the Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway in November following a Truck Series incident with four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., where Busch intentionally wrecked Hornaday under caution following an earlier incident and NASCAR suspended Busch from competing the remaining national touring series events during the Texas weekend. 

Despite a disappointing conclusion to a strong 2011 season, Busch kickstarted the 2012 Cup season on a wild, high note by rallying from two near spins to edge reigning three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart in a photo finish to win the Shootout at Daytona in February. Busch went on to achieve his first points victory of the season at Richmond in April, which marked his fourth consecutive spring Richmond victory. Despite the victory, Busch’s 26-race regular-season stretch was mired with inconsistent results throughout the summer and he missed the Playoffs by three points. While he was not a title contender, Busch earned seven top-five results during the 10-race Playoff stretch before concluding the season in 13th place in the final standings.

Five races into the 2013 Cup season, Busch snapped a 31-race winless drought by winning at Auto Club Speedway after overtaking teammate Denny Hamlin and former teammate Joey Logano on the final lap. Two races later and in his 300th Cup career start, Busch prevailed over Martin Truex Jr. to win at Texas in April. He went on to win at Watkins Glen in August and at Atlanta in September, which were more than enough for him to return to the Playoffs. While an accident at Kansas Speedway in October ended his title hopes, Busch went on to conclude the season in fourth place in the final standings, which marked his best points result since finishing fifth in 2007. Overall, Busch achieved four victories, three poles, 16 top-five results and 22 top-10 results in 2013. By then, his Cup career wins tallied to 28.

In 2014, Busch recorded his lone victory of the season at Auto Club Speedway in March, which was enough for him to make the Playoffs for the seventh time in his 10-year Cup career. He went on to achieve three pols, nine top-five results and 15 top-10 results before capping off the season in 10th place in the final standings.

The 2015 Cup season started off on a harrowing note for Busch, who was set to embark in his 11th Cup season and first with new crew chief Adam Stevens. While competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ season-opening event at Daytona in February, Busch was involved in a late multi-car wreck, an accident that saw him make a hard head-on contact into a concrete barrier installed with no SAFER barriers. The accident left Busch with a massive compound fracture to his right leg, a minor fracture to his left foot and a sprained left finger. With Busch sitting out for the first 11 events of the season, names like Matt Crafton, David Ragan and Erik Jones participated as interim competitors for Busch in the Cup circuit.

By the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Busch was medically cleared to return to racing. He had also received a medical waiver that would make him eligible for the Playoffs under the Playoff’s qualification rules. After finishing sixth in the All-Star event and 11th during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, which marked Busch’s first Cup points event of the season, Busch rallied from finishing outside of the top 30 on the track during two of the following three races to achieve his first victory of 2015 and his 30th Cup career victory at Sonoma Raceway in June. The win checked off Busch’s first goal in his quest to make the 2015 Cup Playoffs.

Following his victory at Sonoma and a 17th-place result at Daytona in July, Busch went on a three-race winning streak, where he won at Kentucky, New Hampshire and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit in July. He also earned four additional top-10 results, which were enough for him to move into the top 30 in the regular-season standings and qualify for the Playoffs for the eighth time in his career.

After finishing in the top five in five of the first nine Playoff events, Busch earned a championship spot in the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. During the finale, Busch led 41 of 267 laps and held off reigning champion Kevin Harvick to claim his fifth victory of the season and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. In claiming his first Cup title, Busch became the 31st different competitor to win a championship in NASCAR’s premier series and the first since Richard Petty in 1971 to do so without competing the entire schedule. Busch also captured the fourth Cup career title for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Toyota, with the driver earning a pole, 12 top-five results and 16 top-10 results.

Entering the 2016 season as the reigning Cup champion, Busch claimed four victories throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch (Martinsville Speedway and Texas in April, Kansas Speedway in May and at Indianapolis in July). He went on to make the Playoffs for the ninth time in his Cup career and earn enough consistent results to make the Championship Round at Homestead in November for a second consecutive season. During the finale, however, Busch pitted late for fresh tires and settled in sixth place on the track and in third place in the final standings. While he did not repeat as a Cup champion, Busch achieved four victories, two poles, 17 top-five results, 25 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 11.5. In addition, Busch surpassed 400 Cup career starts.

Determined to reclaim his title, Busch went winless through the first 11 races of the 2017 Cup schedule before capturing his first victory in the non-points All-Star Race at Charlotte in May. Two months later, Busch achieved his first Cup points victory of the season at Pocono. He went on to win at Bristol in August before winning back-to-back Playoff races at New Hampshire and Dover between September and October while as a Playoff contender. Following his fifth victory of the season at Martinsville in October, Busch qualified for the Championship Round at Homestead in November for a third consecutive season. During the finale, however, Busch ended up as the runner-up finisher on the track and in the final standings behind Truex. In a season where he won five races, Busch also captured a career-high eight poles along with 14 top-five results, 22 top-10 results and a second consecutive average-finishing result of 11.5. He also surpassed 40 Cup career victories.

The 2018 Cup season was one of Busch’s finest seasons to date, with the driver earning a total of eight victories throughout the 36-race schedule (Texas, Bristol and Richmond in April, Charlotte in May, Chicagoland in June, Pocono in July, Richmond in September and at Phoenix in November). By then, Busch surpassed 50 Cup career victories and had achieved a victory in every active track in the Cup Series. Along with a career-best eight victories, he also achieved four poles, a career-high 22 top-five results, a career-high 28 top-10 results and a career-best average-finishing result of 8.3. Despite making the Playoffs for the 11th time in his Cup career and earning a spot in the Championship Round at Homestead for a four consecutive season, Busch went on to finish in fourth place during the finale and in third place in the final standings.

The momentum from the previous season carried forth for Busch entering the 2019 Cup season, with the driver winning twice through the first five scheduled events (Phoenix and Auto Club in March) and earning a career-best runner-up result in the season-opening Daytona 500. By then, he surpassed 500 Cup career starts. Busch went on to win at Bristol in April and at Pocono in June before capturing the regular-season championship and make his 12th appearance in the Playoffs. After finishing in the top 10 in five of the first nine Playoff spots, Busch managed to qualify for the Championship Round at Homestead in November for a fifth consecutive season. Having a strong car throughout the finale, Busch went on to win the race for his fifth victory of the season and for his second Cup Series championship, his first while completing the entire 36-race schedule. With his second Cup career title, Busch became the 16th different competitor to repeat as a champion in NASCAR’s premier series as he also claimed the fifth Cup title for Joe Gibbs Racing and the third drivers’ title for Toyota. He also capped off the 2019 season with a pole, 17 top-five results, 27 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 8.9.

The 2020 Cup season was a roller coaster season for Busch, who went winless throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch. Despite making the Playoffs for the 13th time in his career, his hopes for a third title evaporated following the second round. Nonetheless, Busch extended his winning streak in the Cup circuit to 16 consecutive years after Busch outlasted teammate Truex in a late fuel mileage battle to win at Texas in October. Overall, Busch earned a victory, 14 top-five results and 20 top-10 results throughout the 36-race schedule before finishing in eighth place in the final standings.

Paired with rookie crew chief Ben Beshore for this season, Busch commenced the season on another wild note by winning his second career Clash event on Daytona’s road-course venue following a last-lap pass on Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, both of whom wrecked on the final corner. Despite crashing out on the final lap in the Daytona 500, Busch extended his Cup winning streak to 17 consecutive seasons after the two-time champion won at Kansas in May. Eight races later, he rallied from clutch issues to win the second of a Pocono Raceway doubleheader weekend after overtaking teammate Denny Hamlin and barely having enough fuel to finish. The two victories earned throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, along with 11 top-five results and 16 top-10 results, were enough for Busch to make the Playoffs for the 14th time in his career. Despite recent finishes of 35th, ninth and 21st in the Round of 16, Busch is through to the Round of 12 in the 2021 Cup Playoffs and seeded in fifth place with 3,022 points.

Through 599 previous Cup starts, Busch has amassed two championships, 59 wins, 32 poles, 225 top-five results, 333 top-10 results and an average result of 13.6.

Busch is set to make his 600th Cup career start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 26, at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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