It’s been two years since I wrote about the end of Kyle Busch‘s career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
It was over.
The fat lady had sung.
Busch had finally, mercifully, won his 100th career Xfinity race on June 21, 2021, at Nashville Superspeedway. It came four years after he claimed he’d retire from the series once he reached 100 wins.
After Nashville, he’d win two more times, completing a five-for-five sweep of his Xfinity starts that year and sending him out on top.
It sure seemed like a done deal.
“Did you hear the crowd?” said Busch at the time, referring to the Nashville audience that had booed his win. “Nobody likes me here. So peace out. Bye-bye. […] I get beat up, whether it’s the fans or here [in the media center], like ‘Why am I doing it? What am I doing it for? Why am I beating up on the little kids?’ and all that BS. I love winning.”
Luckily, I hedged my bets, writing:
The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ long national Kyle Busch nightmare is over.
Let’s play it by ear?
I’ll be honest, about halfway through the 2022 season — in which only three Xfinity races were won by full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers — I caught myself thinking, “When is Kyle Busch going to make his first Xfinity start this year?”
I had completely forgotten about Busch’s departure from the series.
It helped that we were wrapped up in the “will he or won’t he?” drama around if Busch would remain with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Spoiler warning: He didn’t.
Well, last week Busch turned his “retirement” into a one-year siesta.
And you know what?
I’m not entirely annoyed by it.
Emphasis on “not entirely.”
For the vast majority of his Xfinity career, Busch was behind the wheel of top-flight equipment, whether it was with Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing.
The biggest exception was in 2012. That year Busch drove a self-owned car in 22 races.
He went winless.
It is one of only two seasons in Xfinity that Busch didn’t claim a victory, joining his part-time rookie year in 2003.
2023 represents a fascinating moment for Busch.
At age 37, he’s now the top guy at RCR, which hasn’t won a Cup title since 1994 with Dale Earnhardt.
He’ll get his five races with Kaulig, a RCR technical partner that’s entering its eighth season in Xfinity. It has 19 wins in 425 combined starts, with 13 of those credited to AJ Allmendinger.
Even in the Craftsman Truck Series (boy, that’s going to be weird getting re-accustomed to), Kyle Busch Motorsports is now a Chevrolet team.
At all levels, Busch is in some form of uncharted territory.
Nothing feels guaranteed.
That makes Busch’s Xfinity return — where he’ll be pitted against JGR equipment for the first time in 11 years — a little bit intriguing.
Maybe his five races will be just be more of the same: yawn-inducing.
But it could make those five Xfinity Series races some of the most intriguing of his career.
Let’s play it by ear?
2022 is Daniel McFadin’s ninth year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can also be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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