Race for 100: Five significant wins from Kyle Busch’s Xfinity career

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Kyle Busch gets his first opportunity to claim his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Nashville was where Busch earned his 25th Xfinity win on June 6, 2009. He celebrated by smashing the guitar trophy painted by the late artist Sam Bass, a moment that’s gone down in history (and was relived in the local newspaper this week).

Busch, the two-time Cup Series champion, had said several times before that he’d quit the Xfinity Series upon reaching his 100th win.

But following his 99th win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, he revealed that team owner Joe Gibbs has scheduled him for more Xfinity races next season.

We don’t know how many Xfinity wins that Kyle Busch will have when it’s all said and done. But we do know there’s been some memorable triumphs among the 99 he has already.

May 14, 2004 – Win No. 1, Richmond Raceway

Driving for Hendrick Motorsports in his first full Xfinity season, Busch claimed his first series win in emphatic fashion. He led 236 of 250 laps but had to hold off Greg Biffle in a three-lap dash to the checkered flag.

In Victory Lane, Busch – then 19 years old – declared his No. 5 car as “the best car (he’d) ever driven in (his) entire life.”

As for Biffle, then a sophomore in the Cup Series, he wanted to keep the final laps clean. “I could’ve got to his bumper, but I figured I’d let him go,” he said.

April 5, 2008 – Win No. 12, Texas Motor Speedway

After spending his first three Cup seasons with Hendrick, Busch jumped to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. That March at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he earned his first Cup win with JGR and the first Cup win for Toyota.

Almost a month later, Busch notched his first Xfinity win with JGR at Texas Motor Speedway and the 12th Xfinity win of his career. He started the race 31st but still led 126 of 200 laps on his way to the victory.

It was Busch’s first of 10 Xfinity wins that season – the first of four seasons he earned double-digit wins in the series.

Sept. 25, 2010 – Win No. 41, Dover International Speedway

Busch claimed one of the Xfinity Series’ biggest records for himself in this race.

He led all but eight of 200 laps in claiming his 11th win of the 2010 season. That broke a tie with late two-time Xfinity champion Sam Ard for most wins in a single season. Ard claimed 10 wins in his run to the 1983 series title.

“It’s very special,” Busch said about the record. “Sam is a great individual and was a great driver in his time. For myself to be able to come out and compete at that level and get as many wins in a season is hard enough to do, but then to go out there and beat a record …

“From where Sam Ard was in his day and where we are today, I feel like a lot has changed in this sport, and, of course, it’s always challenging to go out and get a win on a given weekend. But for us to win 11 this year is very, very special to me, and that’s why I say it’s so special to (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) and to all these guys on the team, because they’re all part of it.”

Busch went on to claim 13 wins by season’s end.

Aug. 26, 2011 – Win No. 50, Bristol Motor Speedway

It all came down to a bumper between Busch and Joey Logano (then teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing) in the Aug. 2011 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

But it was Busch who had just enough momentum on the outside to edge Logano by .019 of a second at the checkered flag.

And in doing so, Busch earned his 50th series win and eclipsed NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin as the winningest driver in series history.

“There’s an awful lot of accomplishments, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they fall,” Busch said at the time. “Certainly, this is a pretty big one. Just being able to race that hard, and race against a teammate like that, knowing he had just as good as stuff as I did.”

July 27, 2013 – Win No. 59, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Busch claimed his first NASCAR victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the July 2013 Xfinity race.

Busch led 92 of 100 laps, but everything almost went awry for him on the day’s final restart with six laps to go. As he and Logano went up the track in Turn 1, Brian Scott passed them both on the inside to take the lead.

But Busch quickly retook second from Logano and went to work pressuring Scott. Then, with three laps to go, Busch got under Scott in Turn 1 and passed him for the lead.

As Scott did all he could to hang on to second, Busch pulled away to win by more than two seconds.

“For as many race cars that have been on this surface, the yard of bricks is pretty cool,” said Busch about the victory.

Busch went on to earn three more Xfinity wins, as well as 2015 and 2016 Brickyard 400 victories, on the legendary Indy oval. This season, the Cup Series will join the Xfinity Series in racing on the IMS road course.

RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing, Hendrick Motorsports announce sponsors

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RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing and Hendrick Motorsports each announced primary sponsorship deals Monday.

King’s Hawaiian, which served as a primary sponsor in three races last year, returns to RFK Racing and Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 car this year. King’s Hawaiian will expand its role and be a primary sponsor for nine races. 

The first race with the sponsor will be this weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. King’s Hawaiian also will be the primary sponsor on Keselowski’s car for Atlanta (March 19), Bristol Dirt (April 9), Kansas (May 7), World Wide Technology Raceway (June 4), Sonoma (June 11), Pocono (July 23), Daytona (Aug. 26) and Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Jockey returns to sponsor the Trackhouse cars of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez for three races each this season with its Made in America Collection.

Jockey will be on the No. 99 car for Suarez at this weekend’s Busch Light Clash, the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9) and  Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Chastain’s No. 1 car will have Jockey as the primary sponsor at Richmond (April 2), Dover (April 30) and Michigan (Aug. 6).

Hooters returns to Hendrick Motorsports and will be the primary sponsor on the No. 9 car of Chase Elliott for the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9), the Chicago street course event (July 2) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 22).

Toyota has ‘irons in the fire’ for expanding its lineup in NASCAR Cup Series for 2024

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Toyota Racing Development is making a renewed push to expand its lineup in the NASCAR Cup Series, and president David Wilson is optimistic about adding new teams for 2024.

“We’ve got some good irons in the fire now,” Wilson told NBC Sports last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. “What was once a very effective strategy to amass our resources across fewer cars, with the marginalization of the areas that we have to play in and the flattening out of the playing field, we definitely need some more help.”

When TRD entered NASCAR’s premier series as a fourth manufacturer 16 years ago, the target was fielding roughly a quarter of the 43-car field. But Toyota’s Cup fleet always has remained in the single digits even as NASCAR shrunk to three manufacturers and a 40-car field.

Last year, there were six full-time Camrys in Cup between Joe Gibbs Racing (four) and 23XI Racing (two). Wilson said “nine to 10 cars is probably our sweet spot with this new car.”

Over the past two years, TRD has talked to teams within NASCAR and at least two potential car owners who had yet to enter racing. Wilson declined to say if Toyota now is focused on existing or new teams but did rule out a Chevrolet or Ford anchor team such as Hendrick Motorsports or Team Penske.

“We’re talking to a lot of the incumbents,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “It’s a very dynamic time right now. If you’re a team, you want to have an association with a manufacturer. Again, even in spite of the new car, the flattening of the playing field, there’s still something about having an alliance and partnership. The good news is there’s a lot of interest. The bad news is you don’t have to worry about Penske or Hendrick.

“So what’s interesting from a fan standpoint, what’s going to continue to drive interest in our sport is the trajectory of some of the smaller organizations. The Tier 2 or 3 and how they get better. And that’s good for the sport, because as we saw last year, the number of teams that won, the number of drivers that won was historically unprecedented.”

The Next Gen made its debut in NASCAR last year with the goal of reducing costs through standardization of the chassis and parts supplied by single-source vendors while also reducing development expenses. While primarily intended to introduce a more cost-effective team business model, the Next Gen also delivered a new era of competitiveness in its inaugural season. The 2022 season tied a modern-era record with 19 race winners, and the Championship 4 breakthrough by Trackhouse Racing (with Ross Chastain) was indicative of a new crop of teams able to contend outside of the traditional powerhouses.

Wilson also believes the Next Gen should allow TRD to pursue more teams without breaking the bank.

“My budget doesn’t extrapolate with added cars, so it’s a matter of allocating the same resource across more cars and not taking away from your current effort,” Wilson said. “But again, that’s more doable now because we’re much more constrained with our wind tunnel time as an example. That’s a resource that we pay, a number of dollars per hour, and NASCAR continues to trim that back. It wouldn’t surprise me in a couple of years if there is no wind tunnel other than for body submissions purposes. They’re being very intentional and thoughtful about trying to keep coming back into areas where the team feel they have to spend or OEMs feel they have to spend.”

Manufacturer investment remains important, though, and Wilson takes some solace (while also gritting his teeth) about the impact Toyota has made in NASCAR.

After a rough debut in 2007, TRD added Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 and also opened a technical center in Salisbury, North Carolina, that helped drive its approach of getting its teams to work closely together.

It’s been an approach adopted by Ford and Chevrolet over the past decade. Ford opened its tech center in Concord several years ago, and General Motors opened a new 130,000-square-foot performance and tech center last year (just down the road from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters) with NASCAR operations overseen by Dr. Eric Warren.

“To suggest that we don’t have areas to work in, all you have to do is look at the monstrosity that General Motors has built in Concord,” Wilson said. “I haven’t been invited to tour it yet, but I have talked to some folks that have been through, and hats off to Eric and the guys there. They’re investing significant resources. Can’t say that I’m not a little envious.

“We cut the ribbon (on the Salisbury facility) in 2008, and it seems like just yesterday. What I love about this world or what I hate about it, if you’re not constantly moving forward, you’re falling behind. I love it that our competitors are re-evaluating how they participate. Not that they’re following our lead, but when we came in the sport, we were the only ones doing it this way. Getting our hands dirty and really participating is material to the return on that investment. I’m glad that there are others doing the same thing, but it does cause us to look forward and look at what we need to do to make sure that we remain competitive.

“It’s competition. It makes all of us better, and I like that side of it. That’s a microcosm of the greater automotive industry. When Toyota came to this country, ultimately we helped the competition indirectly get better because they had something different to compete against. That’s kind of fun.”

Wilson was at Daytona International Speedway last weekend to watch Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus finish third in the GTD Pro category of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Surveying key race dates for the 2023 Cup season

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NASCAR Cup Series cars will fire up again Feb. 5 as the 2023 season begins with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, the regular season opens with the Feb. 19 Daytona 500, for decades the curtain-raiser for the Cup Series’ 10-month cross-country marathon.

With only a single week break in mid-June, the Cup schedule visits familiar stops like Darlington, Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega and Dover but adds two new locations that should be highlights of the year — North Wilkesboro and Chicago.

Here’s a look at key races for each month of the season:

February — With all due respect to the unique posture of the Clash at the Coliseum (Feb. 5) and the apparent final race on the 2-mile track at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 26) before it’s converted to a half-mile track, the Daytona 500 won’t be surpassed as a February highlight. Since the winter of 1959, the best stock car racers in the land have gathered on the Atlantic shore to brighten the winter, and the results often are memorable. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon and so many others have starred on Daytona’s high ground, and sometimes even rookies shine (see Austin Cindric’s victory last year).

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy aiming for breakout season

March — The newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway saw its racing radically changed last year with higher banks and straights that are tighter. The track now is considered more in the Daytona/Talladega superspeedway “family” than an intermediate speedway, generating a bit of the unknown for close pack racing. William Byron and Chase Elliott won at AMS last year.

April — Ah, the return to Martinsville (April 16). Despite the rumors, Ross Chastain’s wild last-lap charge in last October’s Martinsville race did not destroy the speedway. Will somebody try to duplicate Chastain’s move this time? Not likely, but no one expected what he did, either.

May — North Wilkesboro Speedway is back. Abandoned by NASCAR in 1996, the track’s revival reaches its peak May 21 when the Cup All-Star Race comes to town, putting Cup cars on one of stock car racing’s oldest tracks for the first time in a quarter century.

June — The June 11 Sonoma road course race will end 17 consecutive weeks of racing for the Cup Series. The schedule’s only break is the following weekend, with racing resuming June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. Sonoma last year opened the door for the first Cup win by Daniel Suarez.

July — The July holiday weekend will offer one of the biggest experiments in the history of NASCAR. For the first time, Cup cars will race through the streets of a major city, in this case Chicago on July 2. If the race is a success, similar events could follow on future schedules.

August — The Aug. 26 race at Daytona is the final chance for drivers to qualify for the playoffs, ratcheting up the tension of the late-summer race considerably.

September — The Cup playoffs open with the Southern 500, making Darlington Raceway a key element in determining which drivers have easier roads in advancing to the next round.

October — The Oct. 29 Martinsville race is the last chance to earn a spot in the Championship Four with a race victory. Christopher Bell did it last year in a zany finish.

November — Phoenix. The desert. Four drivers, four cars and four teams for the championship.

 

Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota

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Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.