Long: Kyle Busch makes triumphant return after tumultuous 2022 season


TALLADEGA, Ala. — Eight months ago, Kyle Busch revealed how much issues on and off the track wore on him, saying then that it had “been hard as hell.”

Busch’s 15-year tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing was coming to an end. Not only did he have to find a place to race, he had to find a new manufacturer for his Craftsman Truck team.

Richard Childress Racing vigorously pursued the two-time Cup champion. Busch noted Andy Petree, RCR’s vice president of competition, “blowing me up for a couple weeks on phone calls.”

The reception from the rest of the organization also invigorated Busch.

They didn’t think that Kyle Busch was washed up or anything like that,”  he said. “It was really a breath of fresh air to get over there and get to work.”

After signing with RCR, he later partnered Kyle Busch Motorsports with Chevrolet, taking some of the pressure off in such a difficult and momentous year.

Even so, frustrations continued last fall. Busch’s final season at Joe Gibbs Racing saw him eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.

So much has changed for Busch since last August.

Sunday, Busch celebrated in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway for the first time since 2008 — his first season at JGR.

He becomes the third Cup driver this season to have two victories, joining Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson.

While it’s easy to believe this season’s success has come naturally for Busch, that would be a mistake.

Trust me, I’ve probably done more, worked harder in this year than I have in the last four just because of feeling like it’s my duty, it’s my service to them to give them everything that I’ve got, absolutely everything that I’ve got, for them sticking their neck out for me at RCR,” Busch said after his 62nd career Cup victory.

It’s evident in the meetings. Kaulig Racing is a part of the competition meetings with Richard Childress Racing and Justin Haley noted how vocal Busch can be in those gatherings.

“He never doesn’t ask a question,” Haley said last month. “If there’s even a thought in his mind of a what if or why, he’s not afraid to ask it. I really appreciate it of him.

“Our alliance and our organization in general, he pushes us. He’s not afraid to say, ‘Hey, this is not what we’re supposed to be doing. Hey this is wrong,’ or ‘Hey, this is right.’ ’’

Even after winning Sunday, Busch noted much work remains.

“I think next week is another big test for us, as the RCR group, statistically speaking, at Dover was horrendous a year ago,” he said. “Hopefully, we can turn that around.”

While Busch works to reshape Richard Childress Racing, the changes will take time.

“Have you watched our short track program?” he said with a grin when asked about his impact on the organization. “It’s a struggle. We’re working on that.”

Still, Childress likes what Busch has been able to do 10 races into their first season together.

“I think he’s helping us build RCR back to where we want to be,” Childress said after his team’s 115th career Cup victory and 13th at Talladega.

“I have to give all the credit to Austin Dillon. He’s the one that came to me, he knew Kyle was going somewhere else. He said, ‘Pop, what do you think about bringing Kyle Busch over here?’ ”

That simple question changed an organization. And changed Busch.

NASCAR Cup Series results: Kyle Busch wins at Talladega

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Kyle Busch roared into contention late in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway and slid past a final-lap crash to score his second victory of the season.

Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney wrecked while battling each other for first place in overtime, and Busch charged by on the inside to claim first place a few seconds before the caution flag flew, freezing the field.

MORE: Talladega Cup race results

MORE: Cup points after Talladega

The win was Busch’s second at Talladega.

Following Busch in the tangle at the finish were Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe and Brad Keselowski.

Sunday Cup race at Talladega: Start time, TV info, weather


The Cup Series competes at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday and one of the key questions is if the track’s streak of different winners stretches to seven.

The last six Talladega winners have been Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

Sunday’s race marks the 800th career start for Kevin Harvick, who last won at Talladega in 2010.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:10 p.m. … Driver introductions at 2:30 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, Citizens Baptist Medical Center chaplain, at 3 p.m. … The 313th United States Army Band will perform the national anthem at 3:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. … Coverage begins with NASCAR RaceDay at 1:30 p.m. on FS1 and moving to Fox at 2 p.m. … Motor Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Partly cloudy with a high of 68 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Chase Elliott took the lead on the final lap to win last October’s playoff race. Ryan Blaney was second. Michael McDowell placed third. In this race last April, Ross Chastain took the lead on the final lap to win. Austin Dillon placed second. Kyle Busch finished third.


Friday 5: Letting the chaos theory play out at Talladega

Dr. Diandra: The most (and least) accident-prone drivers at Talladega

Fast times at Talladega: The year everyone reached 200 mph

NASCAR fines, penalizes Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team

Doug Yates says changes can be made to increase horsepower but challenges remain

Drivers to watch at Talladega

NASCAR official: Possible engine changes need “longer runway”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Larson jumps to No. 1

Dr. Diandra: The most (and least) accident-prone drivers at Talladega

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Winning a superspeedway race requires two types of skill — drafting and avoiding accidents. To identify the most and least accident-prone drivers at Talladega, I examined all races from 1972 to last fall’s playoff race. I assigned each driver a score by dividing the total number of accidents by the number of races run.

Theoretically, scores should be between 0 and 1. You can think of this number like a batting average, except lower is better when it comes to accidents. Unlike batting averages, a driver can be involved in more than one accident per race, so accident scores could be greater than one.

I include all drivers who have run at least 10 Talladega races between 1972 and the present. I only include accidents that caused NASCAR to bring out a caution. I didn’t include spins.

My usual caveat: A high score shouldn’t automatically be interpreted as signaling that the driver causes a lot of crashes. Some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The most accident-prone drivers

The table below shows all drivers with scores above 0.600.

A table showing the most-accident-prone drivers at Talladega from 1972-the present

Road course ace Marcos Ambrose has the highest score of any driver at 0.92. That score arises from 11 accidents in 12 Talladega races. Given that superspeedway racing is unique to NASCAR, it’s not surprising that the Australian import struggled. His average finish was 23.4 with two DNFs.

The second-highest score comes from a current driver known for his aggressive approach to superspeedways. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has 16 accidents in 19 races with four DNFs. Stenhouse’s aggression has, on occasion, paid off. He won the spring Talladega race in 2017 and this year’s Daytona 500. But in the six Talladega races he’s run for JTG-Daugherty Racing, his average finish is 21.8.

Third on the list of most-accident-prone drivers is Danica Patrick, with a 0.80, or an average of four crashes for every five races. She ran a total of 10 races with four DNFs and an average finish of 25.8

Most of the names in this table are current or recent drivers. That’s because accidents at Talladega have gone up over time and the number of cars involved in accidents has also risen.

Honorable mention: Ryan Preece didn’t qualify for the table because he hasn’t run enough races, but he has seven accidents in six races for a 1.17 score. Despite the high accident score, Preece’s average Talladega finish is 15.3 — in JTG-Daugherty Racing equipment. Keep an eye out for Preece. If he can finish an average of 15th with all those accidents, imagine what he might be able to do if he stays out of the chaos.

Most drivers are in the middle

Most drivers’ scores fall between 0.3 and 0.6. Because there are a lot of drivers in the middle. I include just a few of the best-known names in the table below.

Representative drivers with scores around the middle in terms of most-accident-prone drivers at Talladega from 1972-the present

This table features a mix of drivers from different decades, although the more recent drivers do tend to have higher scores.

Jeff Gordon (six Talladega wins) is on the low end of the scoring spectrum, with an effective crash rate of about 30%. Jimmie Johnson (two wins) is closer to the other end of the list, with an effective crash rate of about 55%.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is slightly lower than 50/50 with a 0.486. But even with an almost 50% chance of accident, he has six wins and an average finish of 15.4. That shows that avoiding accidents isn’t the only key to winning at Talladega.

Chase Elliott, recently returned from a six-week layoff after breaking his leg, is smack dab in the middle. On average, he’s as likely to be involved in an accident as not. Given that he’s still healing, it will be interesting to see if he chooses to back off if other drivers get too aggressive too early in the race.

The least accident-prone drivers

A table showing the least -accident-prone drivers at Talladega from 1972-the present

The drivers with the least number of accidents mostly come from an earlier time. That’s for two reasons: The first is the same reason I gave for why the most accident-prone drivers are mostly current drivers: Fewer accidents involving fewer cars back in the day.

The other factor is that there were a lot more DNFs back in the day due to mechanical failures.

For example: Darrell Waltrip has just four accidents over 55 Talladega races. He also has 23 DNFs. Twenty of those DNFs were in the first 33 races he ran. The vast majority of his failures to finish were not due to accidents. They were because of mechanical failures. Waltrip completed only one of his first nine Talladega races: He retired from the other eight with blown engines, transmissions or oil leaks.

Bobby Allison had only two accidents at Talladega, but one of them was the 1987 tumble that led NASCAR to implement restrictor plates (now tapered spacers.)

Dale Jarrett is one of the more recent drivers on the list of least accident-prone drivers with a 0.119 score. He had just five accidents in 42 races — and many of those races were during the time that accidents were on the rise.

I would be remiss not to mention current driver Corey LaJoie, with just two accidents in 10 races. His finishing average at Talladega is 21.4, with four top-15 finishes and only one DNF.

NASCAR fines, penalizes Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team


Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 NASCAR Cup Series team has been fined $75,000 and penalized 60 points for a rules infraction at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR’s penalty report Wednesday said the team violated the assembled vehicle rules in the car’s underwing assembly and hardware.

Crew chief Keith Rodden was fined $75,000 and suspended for the next two races. The team and driver Austin Dillon were penalized 60 points and five playoff points. The penalty drops Dillon from 21st to 28th in the season standings with 122 points.

Richard Childress Racing tweeted that it was “disappointed” in the penalty NASCAR issued and plans to appeal.

Dillon finished 12th at Martinsville.

On Wednesday, NASCAR also suspended crew members Chris Jackson and David Smith of the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Cup team of driver Anthony Alfredo because of a lost wheel during the Martinsville race.

Xfinity Series crew chiefs Mike Bumgarner, Jeff Meendering and Mike Scearce were fined $5,000 each for lug-nut violations.