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Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing: A long, sometimes rough, road NASCAR Power Rankings: Christopher Bell new No. 1 NASCAR official fires back at Kevin Harvick’s comment Cup playoffs continue theme of ‘crazy year’ in NASCAR Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch will swap pit crews beginning at Texas

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Of the 16 drivers who entered Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway to earn seats in the second round of the NASCAR Cup series playoffs, one is likely to draw the most attention.

Kyle Bush. And for many reasons.

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The Saturday night 500-lap marathon will be the first Busch Cup race since it was announced Tuesday morning that he will be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season to drive in 2023 with Richard Childress Racing.

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Bush enters Saturday’s race with little trouble. he is 13th in the standings with 16 riders, two points below the cut line. He needs either a win on Saturday or a move up from the cut line to continue chasing a third cup title in the round of 16.

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Failing to make it to the second round of the playoffs would mean Busch was eliminated in the first round for the first time, and it would be a major black mark on what would be his last season in the JGR, and a rather embarrassing result for a rider of his caliber.

However, a playoff failure won’t be the darkest time for Bush in his 15-year JGR tenure. The partnership between one of the sport’s most volatile drivers and a former Super Bowl-winning football coach has been a series of amazing ups – dozens of wins and two cups – and embarrassing downs.

That their long trip together has come to an end is low in itself. Bush chose to end his career in the warm embrace of Toyota and Gibbs; instead, he moves to the Chevrolet team, which is promising but not considered at the highest sporting level.

Instead of retiring somewhere in his 40s and possibly opening the doors to major competition for his son Braxton, Bush will have to make a bit of a makeover at RCR, which has two riders – Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick in their year’s Cup playoffs, but have only won four since 2019 and have not won the Cup since 1994.

Bush will arrive at Childress’s doorstep with a history of quarrels, including, ironically, a significant one with his new boss. Annoyed by the way Busch raced with his Truck Series drivers in 2011, Childress punched Bush multiple times at Kansas Speedway in 2011, receiving a $150,000 fine from NASCAR. This incident, quite serious at the moment, was played for laughs at a press conference on Tuesday when Childress gave Bush a watch, a reference to Childress asking someone to “hold my watch” before getting into a fistfight with Bush 11 years ago.

However, even if he misses out on another title, Busch’s time with Team Gibbs is one of the most remarkable owner-driver success stories in stock car racing history.

He has achieved 56 of JGR’s 198 Cup victories and won two titles (2015 and 2019) with Gibbs cars. Since Bush joined JGR in 2008, his 56 wins top the overall winners list, with Jimmie Johnson (50) and Kevin Harvick (49) further. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Bush’s total Cup wins with JGR could have been doubled. He finished second 51 times for the team.

Busch completed a staggering 17,335 laps in JGR Cup cars.

In addition, Busch virtually owned the Xfinity series for a time, winning 90 JGR entries and finishing 40 times as runners-up.

This streak of success marked Bush’s battles with other drivers, crew members, his own crew chiefs, members of the media, and a sizable group of fans. Although Bush has a large fan base he calls the Rowdy Nation, many fans admire his failures, giving him a thumbs down (and other thumbs up) when introducing a driver, and even booing his team as they drive by.

There isn’t a lot of middle ground in Kyle Busch’s landscape.

At Richmond Raceway in 2008, Busch rejoined JGR after leaving Hendrick Motorsports, which replaced him with Dale Earnhardt Jr., did what Junior’s vast fanbase considered a major no-no. Struggling for position, the two cars crashed, causing Earnhardt Jr. to hit the wall hard.

This sparked a feud that fans of the two riders were only too happy to add fuel to the fire. Earnhardt returned the favor in the next race at Richmond, spinning Busch.

Earlier that year in Atlanta, Bush scored a historic win, leading Toyota to the Cup winning streak for the first time.

There have been more ups and downs in Bush’s journey over the years:

  • In 2009, he and Tony Stewart had a falling out in Dayton.
  • At Bristol in 2010 he had an outstanding performance winning the Truck, Xfinity and Cup races on the same weekend.
  • In 2011, he crashed into Ron Hornaday’s truck at Texas Motor Speedway and was suspended for the remainder of the race that weekend. That season at Darlington, Busch and Kevin Harvick were at odds on the track. Harvick parked next to Busch on pit road and attempted to hit him through the driver’s side window. Bush drove away in his car, while Harvick’s driverless car rolled into the pit wall.
  • In 2015, Busch would eventually win his first Cup title, but the year started under a lot of pressure when he crashed badly at the February Xfinity race in Dayton, breaking his leg and missing three months of racing.
  • In 2017, Bush, outraged Joey Loganoaggressive racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, went straight to Logano’s pit stop after the race and punched him. A group of crew members got involved in the fight.
  • Busch won his second Cup in 2019 and is now the only active driver to have won more than one title.

On Saturday evening, he continues to walk along the road to another. And towards the end of the biggest part of his racing journey.

The 12 drivers who have competed in the NASCAR Cup Series have 0 out of 3 in playoff races to date.

At the moment, the question is not whether a driver who did not make the playoffs can win another race? Now the question is: will a playoff driver ever win again?

Eric Jones, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher won the race in the first round.

MORE: NASCAR Odd Season Continues

Texas Motor Speedway will be the next venue for championship contenders. Sunday’s race at 3:30 pm EST (USA Network) will be the fourth in the playoffs and the first in the 1/8 finals.

Based on results from a stupid Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, Christopher Bellwho appears to be seriously in contention for his first title, has moved to number one in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, replacing Denny Hamlin.

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Ranking

1. Christopher Bell (#2 last week) Bell is the only driver to finish in the top five in all three first lap races. He led 143 laps en route to fourth place at Bristol.

2. Chase Elliott (#3 last week) – Opening the playoffs from a crash in Darlington, Elliot rebounded to finish 11th in Kansas and 2nd in Bristol.

3. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) Hamlin was ninth at Bristol but didn’t lead a single lap. He finished in the top ten in all three playoff races.

four. Kyle Larson (#4 last week) – The defending champion spent 34 laps in Bristol and finished fifth. He is fourth in the playoff standings.

5. William Byron (#6 last week) Byron was strong in all three playoff races, finishing eighth at Darlington, sixth at Kansas and third at Bristol.

6. Joey Logano (#5 last week) — Suspension problems Logano parked late at night in Bristol. His best playoff record is fourth at Darlington.

7. Ross Chastain (#9 last week) – Chastain recovered from 20th at Darlington, finished seventh at Kansas and sixth at Bristol.

eight. Ryan Blaney (#7 last week) “Despite the fact that he has not won a single race, Blaney continues to hunt for the championship.

9. Chase Briscoe (not ranked last week) Briscoe is ninth in the playoff standings after finishing 14th in Bristol.

ten. Alex Bowman (#10 last week) – Bowman had his ups and downs in the first round, finishing 10th at Darlington, fourth at Kansas and 32nd at Bristol.

Dropped: Kevin Harvick (No. 8 last week; he has “shitty details” and a new T-shirt).


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