NASCAR: The ‘rare’ quality that Kurt Busch possesses

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

Kurt Busch delivered 23XI Racing their second ever NASCAR Cup Series victory in Sunday afternoon’s race at Kansas Speedway.

After passing former Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson with a handful of laps remaining in Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, Kurt Busch went on to secure his first win of the 2022 season, delivering 23XI Racing their second ever victory in the process.

Busch has now won at least one race in nine consecutive seasons going back to 2014, and his win made him the first driver to ever win for each of the sport’s last four manufacturers: Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge.

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The 43-year-old Las Vegas, Native native pulled off the historic achievement in just his 13th start for Toyota with the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned team, a team which only entered the Cup Series at the start of the 2021 season as a single-car team with Bubba Wallace behind the wheel of the #23 Toyota.

The team, which secured their first victory in a rain-shortened event at Talladega Superspeedway won by Wallace last October, expanded after year one, adding the #45 Toyota for Busch for 2022.

The 2004 series champion joined the team on a multi-year deal, and it couldn’t be working out better.

While Busch isn’t technically locked into the playoffs, since there could still be more than 16 different regular season winners with 11 winners already and 13 regular season races remaining, his win could very well be what locks up the team’s first ever playoff berth.

And the win earned Busch high praise from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt shared his take that Busch has a “rare quality” that even many of NASCAR’s all-time greats didn’t have: the ability to take any team and make them better.

Indeed, that is exactly what Busch has done. Over his 23-year career, Busch has now competed for seven different organizations. He has earned victories for Roush Racing (four out of five seasons), Team Penske (all six seasons), Stewart-Haas Racing (all five seasons), Chip Ganassi Racing (all three seasons), and now 23XI Racing (one for one).

The only two teams for which he did not win were Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing. But he spent no more than one full season with either, and he still made an impact.

Driving for a perennial backmarker team in Phoenix Racing following his departure from Team Penske, he earned them their best ever non-superspeedway result with a third place finish at Sonoma Raceway in 2012.

While the #51 team only finished in 27th place in the owner standings, that was their best ever finish, and Busch played a huge role in that result before leaving for Furniture Row Racing with six races left in the season.

In his first and only full season with Barney Visser’s team, Busch finished in 10th place in the championship standings. Prior to his arrival, the team had never finished higher than 24th in the owner standings, and they had just three top five finishes over eight seasons. Busch secured 10 in 42 races.

Keep in mind, this was well before the team formed a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and became a Toyota powerhouse with Martin Truex Jr. for much of the latter half of the 2010s decade.

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There is a case to be made for Busch as an all-time great himself, given that he is a former champion who now sits in the top 25 on the all-time wins list, and the fact that he has found success with so many different teams, including backmarker organizations, throughout his career makes him a surefire Hall of Famer when the time comes for his name to be on the ballot.