Kyle Busch ties Tony Stewart in wins but is above comparison


LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch often makes incredible moves on the race track, ones that people would compare to Jeff Gordon or David Pearson.

If he races someone a little hard, trades a little paint, they will compare him to Dale Earnhardt.

And with his fiery, hate-to-lose personality, some will compare him to his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart.

The Stewart comparison isn’t the most accurate for Busch, whose ability to will the car into making a move he shouldn’t make has virtually been unrivaled in the sport.

On the day where Busch tied Stewart for 13th in career NASCAR Cup Series victories as he captured the 49th of his career, it’s hard to view Busch as a carbon copy of any other NASCAR driver.

In fact, the way he won career victory No. 49 was more like the driver of the No. 48.

Busch won at Pocono Raceway on a day where he didn’t have the best car. That belonged to Kevin Harvick, but Harvick suffered damage on pit road with 39 laps remaining, ruining his chance to take the best car to victory lane.

And that’s where Busch has been at his finest since he came back from injury in 2015. He takes what race tracks and race circumstances give him and capitalizes on it. He and crew chief Adam Stevens can rival the Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus ability in that realm.

Once Busch earned the lead, he stayed there. He led 52 of the final 53 laps, including the last 42, outdueling teammate Daniel Suarez on four restarts over the final 37 laps.

No one might be better on restarts than Busch, who rarely makes mistakes in this era of double-file restarts that often create mayhem.

Busch has earned incredible respect for his talent and has accepted his role as a somewhat villain. Ever since he came into NASCAR, people first booed him as Kurt Busch’s brother, then Kyle did more than enough himself to earn fan scorn.

Kyle Busch loves to race in all series. That has increased fan angst as he often is the class of the field in the Xfinity and truck races he competes. He won the truck race Saturday, tying Ron Hornaday Jr. for the record of wins in that series with 51.

Hornaday was the driver that was involved in Busch’s worst NASCAR moment, when he wrecked Hornaday under caution in a November 2011 truck race at Texas, which caused NASCAR to park him for the rest of the weekend.

Those were some trying times, but Busch overcame them.

The guy whom he tied in wins probably could relate to that. And he showed his respect to Busch following the race.

Busch’s boss, Joe Gibbs, did say Stewart and Busch share some similar characteristics. They love racing and own race teams (albeit in different racing series).

But Busch, at 33, has the normalcy of family life with wife Samantha and 3-year-old son Brexton. He maybe has matured a little quicker, having more faith in what will happen in life after his wife needed in vitro fertilization to have Brexton.

“[Tony and Kyle] want to race cars every night — I think that’s very similar for both of them,” Gibbs said.

“I think the difference is Kyle now having the baby and Sam and Brexton, I think he’s taking a different path. But when they get in a race car, I think both of them are very talented, driven, want to go to the front, and I haven’t seen him — I don’t think a weekend, ever — where he hasn’t been that way. And both of them are real talented, that’s for sure.”

Busch might be better, though, in just having that inane sense to stick a car where he shouldn’t be able without wrecking.

He didn’t need that type of move to win Sunday. All he needed was to not make mistakes. That is where his team has thrived.

“They out-execute what their car is capable of every single week,” said his teammate, Denny Hamlin. “He qualifies well. He doesn’t lose his track position throughout the course of a race and at the end, the pit crew picks up three or four spots and he restarts from the front row.”

Hamlin said that two days before Sunday, and that pretty much is what happened. Except Busch, who qualified second, had to start 28th because his crew chief didn’t read a rule bulletin and had an extra fan in the car for qualifying, meaning his qualifying time was disallowed.

No problem. The team executed as it had to Sunday. And while it might have been most like Johnson, you know who it was like?

Kyle Busch.

He’s got the talent. He hates to lose, and that sparks his efforts to win. And when he exhibits enough patience, he makes it look easy, as he did for his sixth victory of 2018.

“Tony is a great friend of mine and really one of the guys that I kind of looked up to coming up through, and Tony was a great teammate, great friend and still is, so it’s pretty cool to tie him,” Busch said.

“[It] certainly means a lot to kind of keep climbing the ladder and getting to the next bunch of guys, and eclipsing that 50 is going to be pretty special. There’s no stop in Adam or myself or Joe [Gibbs] or Toyota or M&M’s or none of us, so we want to be able to go out there and continue on and keep this pattern going for years to come.”

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