Switching From JGR to RCR and Infamy to Acclaim, Kyle Busch Has Had an Image Overhaul in 2023


Oct 23, 2022; Homestead, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) waves to the race fans along the front stretch before the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Busch has been tearing up the tracks for the past two decades, even clinching the title of the most victorious driver since the turn of the millennium. He was the king of the charts from 2008 to 2011. And after a brief lull, he stormed back to the top from 2013 to 2019, never letting up on his quest for the checkered flag. But those days also painted him as the sport’s rebel, with antics like smashing his guitar trophy in Nashville in 2009. But things are changing now.
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In 2022, after riding out a few sponsorship storms at JGR, Kyle Busch decided it was time for new horizons and joined the ranks at RCR. It seems this move wasn’t just about changing teams; it was about shifting gears in how he races. While he’s been known for racking up wins, 2023 saw him winning over fans. Both Kyle and his wife, Samantha, have felt this change, acknowledging the new wave of affection coming their way.
Kyle Busch loves the popularity he has been receiving since last year
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His first season with the new squad was nothing short of stellar, marked by his clean racing style. Though he didn’t crack the top 12, his sportsmanlike conduct on the track won many admirers. Could this newfound respect be down to his switch to Chevy from Toyota, the Childress magic touch, or perhaps fans warming up to him as a new generation of racers takes the stage? Or maybe it’s a mix of all these factors that’s put Kyle Busch in the limelight like never before.
As a seasoned victor and past champion now steering the #8 for RCR, Busch shared his thoughts on this wave of popularity with Jordan Bianchi from The Athletic.
“I’ve seen it happen with a lot of other big-name drivers over the course of their careers as well, too. I feel as though the move from JGR Toyota to RCR Chevrolet was a big deal in the fan base and the eyes of casual and avid fans if you will. Just kind of like, ‘OK, well, we love this. This is a great mix.’ … People are just excited for me to be a part of the legacy of RCR. And they love the legacy of RCR and Richard and everything that they’re about, so they’ve given me my fair shot, and I think it’s going well.”
Even Samantha Busch, his better half, is delighted to see her husband escape the boos that used to echo around the racetracks. It seems Denny Hamlin has taken over the role of the crowd’s favorite target, much to the amusement of the Busch family.
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Samantha shared her joy in a chat with NASCAR, “They really like him [Busch]! It is so exciting! But it’s funny because you know Brexton [Busch] and I’ll still be in the car and there’ll be boos. So I’m going to like look at the screen thinking it’s dad and we’ll be like, ‘Oh, it’s Denny’, and we’ll be like, ‘It’s not us’! So, it’s exciting to see.”
And now with the fan base rallying behind him and a commendable performance at Daytona last year, this could very well be Kyle Busch’s moment to secure his second Daytona 500 victory.
Can #8 win the Daytona 500 this year?
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The Daytona 500 has always been a thorn in Kyle Busch’s side. The one gap in his otherwise stellar racing career that’s bound for the Hall of Fame. Last year, in the second Duel, Busch was on fire, leading the pack for 28 crucial laps, with Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson hot on his heels. But in a twist of fate, a nudge from Suarez sent his #8 Chevy spinning, crashing into the wall, and opening the door for Ricky Stenhouse Jr to snatch the win on the final lap.
But, hopefully, this year might just be the turnaround Busch has been waiting for. With the crowd’s support and a newfound swagger on the track, he’s determined to shake off past misfortunes.
Reflecting on those near-misses, Busch opened up, “There’s been missed opportunities for sure. One of them was when Harvick beat Mark Martin that was 2007(…) Another year I think it was 2016 when it was the Toyota Group where all of us were working together, keeping everybody at bay. It came down to the last lap of the race where Denny jumped to the outside and got in front of Harvick, I wish I would have done that. So there’s definitely two if not three chances of victory that have slipped my fingers.”
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But this time around, Busch is all in, ready to clinch that elusive Daytona 500 win.
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