Kyle Busch is making racing history. His 100th NASCAR win came Saturday in the Nationwide Series race (or his 101st if you count his NASCAR K&N Pro Series win at Iowa Speedway a few years ago like we do), but that’s something for the NASCAR media and Sunday racing fans to discuss.
The success rate that Busch has been accomplishing on the weekend bullrings is almost as impressive as the triple-digit figure he’s put up in the big leagues. When he comes to town to race the biggest short track events in the count, the short track world and the communities surrounding the tracks and events take notice. The Snowball Derby, the Winchester 400, the TD Bank 250 and other big-name events all have their history and Busch wants to be part of it. Busch recently took his second straight win in a Super Late Model show that has donned his name, the Rowdy 251, at Berlin Raceway in Michigan. A few weeks later he crossed the Slinger Nationals off his bucket list and set his site on his next goal, the TD Bank 250, formerly known as the Oxford 250, at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.
"I like Oxford. I’ve got no problems with it," said Busch. "It was fun when I went up there when the Oxford 250 was a Super Late Model race. I like working with those guys over there. It’s a fun track."
In 2006, the TD Bank 250 switched from a Super Late Model event to one for ACT-style Late Models. Busch, like many others in New England and beyond, felt the race had been hurt. It was not the first time the 250 underwent a change, and after a few years of continued success in its current ACT-type format, Busch is ready to capture one title he does not hold.
"I told (OPS owner) Bill Ryan, ‘Man, you go to these ACT cars and I’m not coming back,’” said Busch. “Now we’re still coming up there again. Since I’m going to be there, we’re going to run both the big race and the Super Late Model race on Saturday. It’s an off week (for Busch on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series). We’ll see if we can’t win it this time. We got Seth Holbrook. He’s working on the deal up there. He and T.J. Brackett and those guys are pretty familiar with those cars. T.J. runs well with those cars."
If Busch can capture the Oxford 250 or both events it would add to a stellar resume. He's already won the richest races, the longest races and some of the most prestigious races. The Oxford 250 is the "Richest one day short track race in America" as it has been tagged.
Busch admits that he is not really keeping track of his progress, but he looks at Speed51.com a bunch as a Super Late Model fan and to plot out his big races. As a driver, though, he is breaking into uncharted waters. After his win at Slinger, he joined Butch Miller as the only drivers to win the Snowball Derby, the Winchester 400 and the Slinger Nationals.
"I think the biggest thing is you guys (at Speed 51) are making my bucket list. You’re showing me all these races that have been big over time and the feature you guys showed on Speed51 about all the big names that raced at Slinger was cool."
Busch is as much as a short track history freak like most fans. He likes to see who has won the biggest and how many times it's been done.
"I never even knew Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Harry Gant and all those guys had been here (to Slinger). It’s cool to see those things and those guys that given back to the short track ranks. I’m just doing the same now. I’m in my time, and kind of in my prime. It feels good to go back to the short tracks and have fun for one, just racing my favorite type of race cars – the Super Late Model – to just go out there and win what I can."
Busch makes sacrifices to be at the races when he's not at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. A whole team, his time and the ability to get there are just part of the planning. Being able to meet all his sponsors’ obligations and have a "free" day to be able to go racing is not as easy as it seems.
He does it all with a chance to race the weekend warriors at their track on their turf. They are the best at what they do and they are on top of their game when Kyle comes to town.
"I think the biggest thing about racing in the short track stuff is that you’re racing against guys that may never get the opportunity to make it," explained Busch. "You’re kind of giving them a feel for – I’m not saying I’m the best of the best, but I feel like I’m pretty good at what I do – and for me to be able to come back and race guys like Scott Hantz, Johnny VanDoorn, Junior Hanley when I raced against him, and Mike Eddy, it’s fun to put yourself up against those guys knowing they’re the best short track racers in the country and a lot of people would say they should have made it to the big time and never got the chance."
Busch understands that chance. Busch has opened the window of opportunity for several young drivers to drive his racecars to help advance their careers. Brian Ickler has gone from the Busch Late Models to a part-time driver in the team’s NASCAR Camping World Truck program. Alex Haase won a Super Late Model Championship under the KBM banner and more recently TJ Reaid won the All American 400, one of the few shows Busch has not won, in 2010.
"To me it’s fun to do that. And even so, there’s so many younger guys coming up now that you don’t ever get the opportunity to race against a Cup guy. I’m sure Ross [Kenseth] will make it or Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott. Those are kids that are anywhere in the country. Whether they’re in Slinger, whether they’re down in Pensacola, whether they’re in Las Vegas; I make certain short track appearances and they get to race against me. It’s something cool they get to put on their resume."
Busch may achieve short track royalty if he keeps on clicking off wins at this rate, but not matter what his final tally is or how many big trophies go home to the KBM shop, he will also want to race the next day. Win totals like Dick Trickle's 1000 mark are a worthy goal for the 26-year-old.
"I look back at a lot of that and you hear about Dick Trickle and the 500 or 1000 short track wins he had and everything and I wish I kept track of mine a little bit more than what I’ve done," said Busch. "I’ve won a lot of races and the most enjoyable part too is just being able to go around and visit different areas and see the fans. Same thing it is for the fans as it is for the drivers. They get a chance and an opportunity at a local venue for maybe a cheaper ticket price rather than going to a Cup race or there’s not a Cup race in their area."
When asked if he realizes what he has done for the sport from a short track sense, he had a very truthful answer.
"I don’t know," said Busch. "Certainly, I’m hopeful and thinking that I’m helping out and doing the best that I can. It seems like I’m fighting an uphill battle. Matt [Kenseth] does it a few times, so I won’t say I’m the only one but I certainly try to help and do what I can. It’s no different than the Kyle Busch Foundation – we try to help kids in bad situations. And certainly we know short tracks are all in bad situations. Sometimes, it’s a lot tougher than it seems to get to some tracks. Scheduling and all that stuff is hard, but we do our best."