As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500, Kyle Busch will have the number nine on his mind.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), recorded his eighth career Bristol victory in the NASCAR Cup Series last April, extending his margin of most wins there among active drivers. Only his older brother Kurt is close in the number of wins with six victories at the track often called the “Last Great Colosseum”.
Nine Cup Series victories at Bristol would send the younger Busch brother into a tie with some all-time greats of the sport. Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and Rusty Wallace all ended their careers at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile with nine victories. If Busch was to achieve nine Bristol wins, the next milestone would be Darrell Waltrip’s all-time record of 12 wins at the Tennessee short track.
Busch, the two-time and defending Cup Series champion, holds the distinction of being the only driver in NASCAR history to win all three national series races in a single weekend, which he’s done twice at the .533-mile Bristol bullring. He captured the “Bristol Triple” in 2010 and 2017 when he swept NASCAR’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series races. In addition to his eight career Cup Series wins, Busch has notched 12 top-fives and 17 top-10s in 29 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.”
While he is a factor any time he travels to Bristol, it’s interesting to note Busch didn’t immediately take to the place. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd. But his record since then has been impressive, to say the least. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol Cup Series win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that race and, from 2008 to 2011, nobody has been better at the high-banked, concrete oval than Busch. He scored four wins and six top-10s from 2008 until another change to the track surface prior to the August 2012 race weekend. Busch has seemed to recapture the magic from his four years of dominance there as the new racing grooves there have better suited Busch’s driving style over the past several seasons.
So, as Busch and the Skittles team head to Bristol this weekend, they’ll be aiming for nine, as a ninth victory there would put him into the same category as NASCAR Hall of Famers Earnhardt, Yarborough, and Wallace. Impressive company, indeed.