Kyle Busch, one of the most polarizing figures in modern-day NASCAR, became a little more polarizing on Saturday night when he won the 52nd NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race of his career.
Number 52 was a historic win. It allowed him to solely take the top spot on the Truck Series all-time win leaderboard, a feat he now has accomplished in two of NASCAR’s top-three series.
Whether you like him or not, Kyle Busch probably doesn’t get enough credit for his success. People will liken it all to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Adam Stevens or team owner Joe Gibbs. They’ll say his wins in the lower series are just that — lower. They’ll say his 2015 Cup championship has an asterisks next to it because he didn’t run the full year. However, the fact is, Kyle Busch is only 34 years old, and he has a staggering 195 wins in the top-three levels of the sport. He’s five wins away from tying Richard Petty’s 200 win marker, something that, let’s face it, he will probably do this year at some point.
It’s easy to discredit Busch. It’s especially easy when you don’t like him, but credit must be given when it’s due. Ignore all the stats above for a moment. Not only is Kyle Busch a champion driver and has more than a hundred trophies as a driver, he’s had similar success as an owner.
In less than 10 years owning a Truck Series team, Busch has amassed 69 wins. He’s also advanced the careers of Cup teammate Erik Jones along with Bubba Wallace, William Byron (though it should be noted Byron was first discovered by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) and XFINITY Series standout Christopher Bell.
Along with also being partly responsible for bringing Formula 1 star Kimi Raikkonen to NASCAR for a short stint, Busch owned an XFINITY team for a period of time. It was a team that admittedly never managed to have the success of his Truck team, but brother Kurt Busch won in his equipment.
On Sunday, Kyle Busch will make his 500th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 499 starts to date, he has 51 wins and a series championship. All he’s missing from his trophy case is a Harley J. Earl accolade for winning the Daytona 500, one that will surely come soon enough.
Busch is a future first ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer, and it’s time fans start treating him that way.