Fifteen races into his tenure at Richard Childress Racing, Kyle Busch is once again a favorite for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The two-time title winner surged to his third victory of the 2023 campaign Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway, dominating the race with 121 laps led after winning his first pole with RCR.
Busch’s win totals had slowed relative to his historic pace over the past three seasons, scoring no more than two victories a year since 2020. The last time Busch won at least three races in a season was 2019 — a five-win campaign that resulted in his second Cup Series championship.
Just past the midway point of the 2023 regular season, there’s no indication Busch and the No. 8 team will slow down soon. Together, they’ve garnered the second-most playoff points so far this season, just behind William Byron, who’s also scored three wins this year.
But while Byron’s success feels like an arrival, Busch’s feels like a reminder.
While Busch was never far from Victory Lane, other drivers’ successes stole the spotlight away from him. Now, we’re relearning why Busch is one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers. The 38-year-old now has 228 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, with Sunday marking his 63rd in the Cup Series.
Credit should also be distributed to crew chief Randall Burnett. Burnett has overseen more wins in the Next Gen car than any other crew chief, thanks to his three additional wins with Tyler Reddick piloting the No. 8 car in 2022.
But for as well as Busch and Burnett have run — three wins, four top fives and eight top 10s in 15 starts — they feel the best is yet to come.
“I think we’ve got a lot of potential,” Burnett said. “I think we’ve got a lot to clean up, too, and we talk about it repeatedly. We’ve had some really fast cars and taken ourselves out of races with some mistakes and things like that. Me and Kyle and our whole group have talked about it, and we know we’ve all got to clean it up on our end, especially if we’re going to compete for the championship.”
The past six races have produced two victories and four top-10 finishes, but the other two results were 21st at Dover, three laps down after a speeding penalty, and a DNF at Kansas after a crash.
“We’ve had some really good runs,” Busch said. “We’ve had three wins, obviously, which is great. But we’ve also had some of the dismal days as well. We’ve had peaks and valleys so far this year. We just got to find the greater plains, if you will, and level this thing out a little bit.”
But a new environment has served Busch well — and according to Burnett, he’s serving the environment well, too.
“Really proud of this 8 bunch. They dig in hard,” Burnett said. “Great group of guys, great group of racers, and Kyle has fit right in with them. He’s done a great job of adapting over here and lent plenty of insight on his side to how to make things better as well, so we’re all working together towards that.”