news 5 days ago

Kyle Busch has an opportunity at NASCAR history, but he's looking way beyond milestone

Sporting News — customerservice@sportingnews.com (Sporting News)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At this point, with NASCAR history properly teed up, Kyle Busch is simply ready to buckle up, fire up and, hopefully, raise up a 200th trophy.

The 33-year old future Hall of Famer has won 199 times combined in NASCAR’s three national series — Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck. The historic mark could come with a win in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity race at California’s Auto Club Speedway or Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Or perhaps . . . he eclipses the milestone in one weekend by winning back-to-back races and becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to score 201 victories in the three combined series.

Fans and historians are eager to see whether he sets the mark. Busch figures he’s more ready than anyone to see where his fortunes take him; then again, he stressed Friday, his desire to win races has little to do with historical numbers and everything to do with personal high expectations.

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“It doesn't change anything," Busch said of being on the verge of win No. 200. "Just come out here and we're entered in both races. We come out here and try to do the best we can to win. If we win on Saturday and that’s win (No.) 200, then so be it. It is what it is."

He added, "If it happens on Saturday, maybe a hat or something in Victory Lane. Other than that, we go onto the next one. There’s not going to be much celebration around it because it’s just going to be focused on the next race, which is going to be the next day."

Certainly Busch’s record at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway — located a little more than three hours from his home town, Las Vegas — should provide plenty of confidence and optimism.

Busch has three Monster Energy Series wins at the track, including his very first series win in 2005. He has a record six Xfinity Series wins, too, including three consecutive from 2010-11. And he is a perfect 2 for 2 in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the track, even though the Truck Series isn't racing this weekend. Busch’s 11 combined national series victories at Auto Club Speedway make him the winningest driver at the facility.

His 199 wins are as varied as his work at the Fontana, Calif., track. He has 52 Monster Energy Series wins (11th-most all time) and his 94 Xfinity wins and 53 Truck Series victories are most ever in those respective series. He won both the Xfinity and Cup races last week at Phoenix. He swept the two series at Auto Club Speedway in 2013.

His competitors do not doubt that Busch may score his 200th win this weekend, and it's likely that Busch, with his youth and having established a multi-win pace for the past 15 years, will likely add many more victories — and probably more championships — to his trophy total.

MORE: Highlights from Busch's 199th win

"I hate to see Kyle Busch win as much as anybody does," 2017 Auto Club Speedway winner Kyle Larson said with a laugh.

"It’s just amazing to see how good he is in all types of series and race cars and his win percentages are unbelievable even with all the restrictions that you have now with the amount of races you can run.

"He still wins just as much, if not more. For him to be as good as he is at every race track is pretty spectacular. You can look at most drivers and pinpoint their best race tracks, and I don’t know if you can really do that with Kyle Busch.

"Every race track is his best race track."

As reverent as Busch has been regarding his win total and where it places him historically in the sport, he is quick to remind that he just wants to win, period. The headlines, the record books and the buzz about the accomplishment are not what has motivated him, even though he conceded trackside Friday afternoon that it will be a special moment to claim No. 200.

"Certainly, I have had a few of my friends and stuff send me some links of things they saw this week of some articles and things," Busch said. "I read what [200 Cup-race winner] Richard [Petty] said the other day, which was cool. He talked about how if I was thrown back in their era with [David] Pearson and Petty, I could compete with those guys.

“That’s very respectful and I appreciate that. I am honored he said that. I feel I’d like to think the same way that I could do it. It doesn’t matter. It’s a different time and place. Overall, excited to just continue on and keep winning."

Holly Cain writes for the NASCAR Wire Service.