NASCAR: The 58-year drought that Kurt Busch ended

Kurt Busch, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Kurt Busch ended a 58-year drought that had gone back all the way to the 1964 NASCAR Cup Series season when he won Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

In just his 13th NASCAR Cup Series start with 23XI Racing, which he joined at the start of the 2022 season following the acquisition of his former team, Chip Ganassi Racing, by Trackhouse Racing Team, Kurt Busch delivered the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned team their second ever victory.

Busch passed Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson late in Sunday’s AdventHealth 400, and he never looked back, securing his 34th career victory and making the 2022 season his ninth consecutive winning season.

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In doing so, the 2004 series champion also ended a drought that began all the way back in the 1964 season.

Not since LeeRoy Yarborough won the Pickens 200 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway back on Saturday, May 30, 1964, had anybody driven car number 45 to victory in a Cup Series race.

Of course, Busch is the first driver to run the number 45 since 2008 after 23XI Racing got approval from NASCAR and the Petty family to run it.

It was last run in 2008 as a tribute to the late Adam Petty, the son of Kyle Petty and grandson of seven-time champion and 200-time race winner Richard Petty.

Adam Petty ran the #45 Petty Enterprises Chevrolet in his lone Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway back in April 2000. He passed away just over a month later on May 12 in a practice crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In 2008, the #45 Petty Enterprises Dodge was entered in all 36 races on the schedule, though it only qualified for 31 events. Kyle Petty, Terry Labonte, Chad McCumbee and Boris Said all spent time behind the wheel.

Prior to 2022, McCumbee was the most recent driver to pilot a #45 car, doing so in the 2008 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But the 2009 season was the first season without a #45 car in the Cup Series since 1998. Between Yarborough’s win at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Busch’s win at Kansas Speedway, car number 45 had still been run in a total of 746 races, including 18 more in 1964 and the first 12 of 2022.

Those 746 races were contested across 38 seasons, and 58 drivers other than Yarborough and Busch had the chance to run that car number during this span.

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But none of those 58 drivers could pull off what Busch did on Sunday afternoon in what proved to be an emotional victory for the Petty family.