CONCORD, N.C. – When Kurt Busch looks at his new Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson, he is immediately reminded of a fellow driver.
That driver happens to be his brother – 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.
“To see the talent that Kyle Larson is, it reminds me a lot of when my little brother was coming up and running Legends Cars against me but I had six years more experience,” Kurt Busch said during a preseason media availability at the team’s shop.
“In this case, I have quite a bit more experience than Larson but he’s on a new trend. He’s on the young-guy curve of running new lines on the track and running different setups that I have to adapt to. That’s where I can’t wait to have that banter back and forth, what he feels, what I feel and what Matt (McCall, Busch’s crew chief) is telling me and what Chad (Johnston, Larson’s crew chief) is telling him and just let it rip.”
Busch is at Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2019 season on a one-year deal to drive the No. 1 Chevrolet. The veteran of 19 Monster Energy Series seasons, 648 Cup starts and 30 premier-series wins is embracing a bit of new role with his new organization — being a mentor.
“Ten years ago I wasn’t in a spot to feel that mentor or take different engineers or drivers, people under my wing to help them,” Busch said. “Something’s clicked, something’s changed.”
In fact, the 2004 champion believes that there is plenty he can learn from Larson as well as the season progresses.
“He’s definitely got a fun factor about him and I know he knows how to put the serious cap on as well,” Busch said. “That’s what I want to learn more about. That last little level of seriousness. Yeah, you can run the high side all you want, but are we supposed to be doing that right now? Maybe, we’re supposed to be on the low lane. Or he’s going to teach me, ‘no, that high lane was quicker, Kurt. Get up here, old man.’ There’s going to be that back and forth of working together and having that fun.”
Busch spent the last five seasons at Stewart-Haas Racing where he reached the playoffs each year and won at least one race each season. He totaled six victories during his stint there, including a win in the 2017 Daytona 500. Chad Johnston, Larson’s crew chief on the No. 42 team, saw Busch in action for two seasons at SHR from 2014-15.
“I got to know him a bit when I was at Stewart-Haas with Tony (Stewart),” Johnston said. “He’s a past champion and he’s very competitive, and he’s going to put forth the work and effort to do that. He’s going to bring a sense of accountability to the organization and the teams. He’s not bashful. That brings a lot of good things with it. I would say that (Kyle and Kurt) are on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Kyle is laid-back and kind of goes with it, and Kurt is not. They both have their benefits; I think it will be a good combination.”
Larson is coming off a season where qualified for the playoffs for the third straight year, posted 12 top fives, 19 top 10s and his best career average finish (12.6) but went winless and ranked ninth in the final standings. The 26-year-old is excited about what Busch’s wealth of experience can bring to the two-car organization.
“I think he understands the car a lot and he obviously raced for the quickest team last year, so I think he hopefully can bring some knowledge from that,” Larson said. “He’s pretty involved, so I think it’s good to have somebody like that at our shop. And he’ll push everybody in the shop and myself just to be better.”