Long: All Kyle Busch does is win and win

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FONTANA, Calif. — The first time Kyle Busch won a professional race, the then-13-year-old thanked his older brother Kurt.

For not being in that race.

Twenty years later, Kurt went to Auto Club Speedway’s Victory Lane to congratulate Kyle on winning his 200th career NASCAR race.

“They’re all added up through his hard work, his dedication to perfection,” Kurt Busch said Sunday after finishing sixth to his brother.

Kyle Busch’s accomplishment will be debated. Some will suggest the accolades are hollow because many of his 147 wins in the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series came with superior equipment and against inferior competition. Others will look at his 53 Cup wins — which has him 11th on the all-time victory list — and note his talent is worthy of the praise heaped upon him.

Forget about the number 200, don’t let it distract you. And don’t let any discussion of comparing it to Richard Petty’s 200 Cup wins distract you. They’re different.

“Somebody asked me about whether or not I was the greatest of all time,” said Busch, the 2015 series champion who scored his first career Cup victory at this track. “I’m never going to self‑proclaim that. That’s for others to debate. 

“I would just like to be attributed or in that mix of the top five, top eight guys. I think by the time I’m all said and done, I could be in the top two or three of those guys of greatest of all time.”

But one thing to look at is what Busch is doing in Cup.

He has won 13 of the last 50 Cup races, dating back to his 2017 playoff victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That’s a 26 percent winning percentage. That’s ridiculous. But so are 200 career NASCAR wins (again, don’t let that number distract you).

Busch has accomplished his recent level of dominance in an era of ever-changing rules from stage racing to aerodynamic and horsepower alterations intended to keep cars closer together. He succeeds in an era where drivers can see the data on their competitors. No rule change has stopped Busch from winning.

“Take a look at football,” said Busch’s car owner, NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. “Take a look at football.  We have something going on over there.  We got a team that’s dominating things.”

Busch hasn’t reached the championship level domination of that team that Gibbs, a former coach of the Washington Redskins, wouldn’t let pass his lips, but it’s hard to argue what Busch has done in Cup lately.

“The thing you can count on in pro sports, everybody is coming,” Gibbs said. “You look at all those race teams out there and how good they are.”

Busch’s biggest competition — other than himself — was Team Penske, which had the top three cars at one point in the race. Instead Penske drivers finished second (Joey Logano), third (Brad Keselowski) and fifth (Ryan Blaney).

“It’s Team Penske and the 18 car,” Logano said of Busch. “They got something. They’ve got a good driver. They’ve got a good crew chief. They’re making good adjustments. They’re building good cars. You put something like that together, they win races.

“I wouldn’t say we’re far off. We’re right there and we’re leading laps as well. Today may have been his day. We’ll come back and fight hard next week.”

They couldn’t beat Busch on a day he cost himself the lead by speeding on pit road on Lap 123 in the 200-lap race. Busch dropped to 18th for the restart.

Stevens counseled his driver that there was enough time to make up the lost ground even in a race where the field got strung out the longer a green-flag run went.

Stevens has been Busch’s crew chief for 43 of Busch’s 200 NASCAR victories. Stevens knows when to coddle, when to push back and when to encourage. Such was the case during the final caution on Lap 165.

Busch, who was leading, debated a change to the car, saying he was afraid to free the car too much.

“Don’t be afraid,” Stevens told his driver.

Stevens later said: “I was really just busting his chops.”

Stevens explained.

“I didn’t want him to not tell me what the car was doing because we were learning about the magnitude of our changes,” Stevens said. “I didn’t want him to forecast his impression upon what we were going to do. I just wanted him to tell me what it was doing.”

The changes worked and Busch was back in front for the final 26 laps.

Then it was just a matter of time before he could sing.

“All I do is win, win and win no matter what,” Busch said on the radio after taking the checkered flag, reciting a line from DJ Khaled’s song “All I do is win.”

For as big as this victory was, there will soon be another race. Busch will compete in Saturday’s Truck race at Martinsville Speedway and the Cup race the following day.

There are more races to win.

“I think anything beyond this is just another number,” he said. “I mean, I could go lightly and say 250 (wins), or I could reach for the stars and say 300. What’s wrong with that?”

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Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs, to make ARCA debut Saturday

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Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, will make his ARCA Series debut Saturday in the Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

The younger Gibbs will split driving duties of the No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers Toyota this season, competing in all of ARCA’s short track races, while 2017 ARCA Rookie of the Year Riley Herbst will wheel the car at superspeedway races.

We’re obviously excited to get to Five Flags and get my season started,” Ty Gibbs said. “But we’re equally excited to get to all of the tracks we’re going to race at this season. They’re all different and every one of them has their own challenges. Mark (McFarland, crew chief) has told me a lot about all of them.”

McFarland has stepped back from his duties as co-owner of MDM Motorsports to focus on serving as Gibbs’ crew chief. MDM Motorsports announced at the end of last season that it was withdrawing after two years on the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series circuit and that it would scale back its NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and ARCA programs to just two cars in 2019.

“It’s a lot less stress this year than last year, for sure,” McFarland said. “I am back to having fun. I enjoy being a crew chief. Once I transitioned from driving to being a crew chief, I really came to enjoy working with these young drivers. It’s fun to see these guys figure things out in two or three races that might have taken me a couple years to learn.”

When he takes the green flag Saturday, Gibbs — who also competes in the K&N East Series for DGR-Crosley Racing (a team owned by NASCAR driver David Gilliland) — will be seeking his second win of the racing season. He won a late model race at Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Speedway on February 2, with his grandfather in attendance.

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Kyle Busch signs contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Thursday morning it has signed Kyle Busch to a contract extension. The team also announced an extension with sponsor Mars Inc. for it to serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 18 Toyota Camry.

No details of the multi-year extensions were revealed.

MORE: Kyle Busch ranked No. 1 in this week’s NBC Sports Power Rankings

“I’m proud and honored to continue to compete for Joe Gibbs Racing and Mars,” Busch said in a statement from the team “Racing for more than a decade with such an iconic team and sponsor has been incredible, and knowing that we can continue this winning relationship is very special.”

Busch has been with JGR since 2008. He has won 47 Cup races with the organization and the 2015 series title.

“Since the start of our partnership together in 2008, our relationship has been strong,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement. “As a team owner, the hope is to find partners and drivers that help us grow as an organization, and Kyle Busch and Mars, Incorporated have done exactly that. We have one of the longest partnerships in all of sports, and that really speaks to the strength of the understanding and respect we have for one another.”

Appeals panel upholds stiff penalties vs. David Gilliland, Ty Gibbs

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The National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday reaffirmed penalties against defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship DGR Crosley team owner David Gilliland and driver Ty Gibbs.

However, the panel rescinded a penalty against car chief Chad Walters.

All three were originally assessed a P6 level penalty — the most severe in the K&N Series — for holding a private test on Jan. 14 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. While the team claimed the test was allowed because they were running an ARCA engine in the No. 17 K&N East team car, the appeals panel affirmed Gilliland and Gibbs violated NASCAR rules.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on the day the penalties were issued (Jan. 31) that the team used a NASCAR-approved spec engine in the test, not an ARCA engine. The use of the engine violated the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series testing policy, which specifically prohibits testing at a sanctioned track on the 2019 K&N Pro Series East schedule.

MORE: David Gilliland, Ty Gibbs given heavy penalties for violating preseason testing rules

The penalties assessed came from the following sections in the 2019 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 12-5.3.7 and 12-5.3.7.1.5:

* Gilliland was fined $5,000; assessed with the loss of 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship car owner points for the 2019 NKNPSE season; was suspended from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East until the completion of the third NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event; and placed on NASCAR probation through December 31, 2019.

Per the appeals panel on Wednesday, all of the original penalties against Gilliland remain in place.

* Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR Cup team owner Joe Gibbs, was fined $5,000; assessed with the loss of 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship driver points for the 2019 NKNPSE season; was suspended from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East until the completion of the third NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event; and placed on NASCAR probation through December 31, 2019.

Per the appeals panel on Wednesday, all of the original penalties against Gibbs remain in place.

Gibbs replaced Tyler Ankrum, who led DGR Crosley to the K&N East championship last season..

* Walters was originally fined $5,000 and suspended from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East indefinitely.

Per the appeals panel on Wednesday, the penalties against Walters were rescinded.

The three members of the appeals panel are Dixon Johnston, Bill Mullis and Dale Pinilis.

Gilliland and Gibbs have the right to further appeal Wednesday’s decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with Section 15 of the NASCAR Rule Book.

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Joe Gibbs celebrates ‘biggest win’ weeks after son J.D. Gibbs’ death

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Three Super Bowl championships and two previous Daytona 500 wins could not compare to Sunday night for Joe Gibbs.

Watching Denny Hamlin — a driver signed by Gibbs’ late son J.D. — win the Daytona 500 five weeks after J.D. Gibbs’ death was unlike anything Joe Gibbs has won as a Hall of Fame NFL coach and NASCAR car owner.

“This is the most emotional and the biggest win I’ve ever had in my life in anything,” Joe Gibbs said after his cars finished first, second and third Sunday night. “J.D. built our race team and was the guy that ran day-to-day operations for 27 years. He invested his occupational life in our race team. As a part of that, he went up to purchase some Late Model stuff from Denny and struck up a relationship with Denny, put him in a test, put him in a Truck, put him in an Xfinity car at Darlington and finally said we had to sign this guy. That started the relationship.”

J.D. Gibbs died Jan. 11 from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. He was 49. The family held a public memorial service Jan. 28 that provided a mix of tears and laughter for those who attended the event at a college basketball arena. 

Sunday, J.D. Gibbs’ widow and four sons were at Daytona International Speedway as NASCAR honored him on the 11th lap of the race — tying in with the number he used when he raced.

That it is Hamlin’s number is only part of the what makes the No. 11 car special to him. Hamlin also has had J.D. Gibbs’ name over the driver’s side door since 2017.

“The whole family – they did so much for me over the course of my career,” Hamlin said after winning his second Daytona 500 and 32nd career Cup race. “This one is for J.D. We are desperately going to miss him the rest of our lives. His legacy still lives on through Joe Gibbs Racing and (I’m) proud to do this for them.”

Former Joe Gibbs Racing driver Joey Logano also celebrated J.D. Gibbs’ memory after the race.

“For what J.D. has done for my career is the reason why I’m sitting here today,” Logano said after finishing fourth. “As bad as I want to win it, it is pretty cool to think that the first race after his passing, to see those guys one, two, three, it just says he’s up there watching and maybe gave you guys a little extra boost there at the end. Congratulations to them.”

Joe Gibbs knows that Hamlin’s win was divine.

“I honestly believe it was ‑‑ I think the Lord looked down on us, and I know J.D. and everybody in my family was emotional,” Joe Gibbs said. “I called home to (wife) Pat, and I called sponsors that were emotional, too.

“It was just an unbelievable night, unbelievable crowd. The whole thing was just a special memory for me, and it’s one I’ll never forget, and it was the most important night of my occupational life.”