HAMPTON, Ga. – Saturday’s Ultimate Tailgating 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was both a historic and impactful day for Kyle Busch.
Busch took sole possession of the all-time wins record in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the 1.54-mile quad-oval with his 52nd career victory, breaking a tie with four-time series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr.
It was a win that Busch has been prepared to chase ever since tying Hornaday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last season, and one he was glad to get crossed off his to-do list quickly over the weekend.
“It was certainly a big deal for me and a big deal for our team,” said Busch of winning at Atlanta. “Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and these guys, they prepare some awesome trucks … as do (Mike) Hillman (Jr.) and Marcus (Richmond). It’s a lot of fun to be able to come out here and race with my own team, as well as to have Cessna, Toyota and TRD’s support alongside everybody that gets us to the track.
“It was a bit of a relief and it felt really good to be able to get it in the first start (of the year),” Busch added. Hopefully we can go five for five this year. That’s always what our ultimate goal is, but we’ll see what all we can get accomplished in the meantime.”
When Busch began his Truck Series career as a 16-year-old in 2001, Hornaday was already considered one of the kings of the division, alongside fellow veterans like Jack Sprague and Mike Skinner.
Busch noted that being able to race against and learn from Hornaday over the course of his career has been something he’s relished as he’s extended his NASCAR tenure.
“As much as (Ron) Hornaday and I probably didn’t like each other and couldn’t stand each other back in the day, it was a thrill to race against him, to compete against him, to beat him and even to lose to him,” Busch said. “The other names that are out there, too – Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner, Todd Bodine and all the greats that I ran against – they made the Truck Series what it is.
“I ran some races against (Kyle) Larson and (Tony) Stewart … (Matt) Crafton has been here forever and won a ton of races. Johnny Sauter, right now, is one of the hot hands here too,” Busch continued. “The list goes on of all the guys that I’ve been able to race against in the Truck Series and it’s been fun to do. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Busch’s first 16 Truck Series wins came under the guidance of team owner Billy Ballew, whose team grew from one of the smallest operations in the series into a powerhouse that propelled Busch into the national spotlight.
“This journey has been especially fun because of the way that I did it with (Billy) Ballew. We had nothing when we started,” Busch reminisced. “There were times where we had four trucks, and that’s all we had, and then we became a two-truck team and we ran Billy broke too many times over, but he kept digging and he kept pulling through and figuring out how to get us to the next race.
“It was amazing the success that we had with that group at that shop, and then to form my own team and to be a part of that with (Rick) Ren and Eric Phillips and now Rudy (Fugle) … that has really been the icing on the cake for me. It’s been a fun time to reminisce and think about all the great people that I’ve raced for and against and have lost to and beat.”
Busch was quick to point out that winning 52 Truck Series races is certainly a feat, but that his goal was never to achieve such a mark. His mission has always been far simpler than that.
“This is definitely a great accomplishment, but my aspirations aren’t to go out there and set records. My aspirations are just to go out there and win every single race,” Busch smiled. “I’ve started 1,000 races and I’ve only won 190-something of them, so there’s been way more disappointments than there’s been thrills of victory, but this one is certainly good. It’s big. It’ll be way bigger years down the road once I’m all said and done.
“Who knows if the record will hold, but we’ll keep pushing that bar for as long as we can, for sure.”