HAMPTON, Va. — Kyle Busch loves to put on the helmet at the racetrack, especially when he’s winning.
On a two-race winning streak in the NASCAR Cup series, Busch will look for his third consecutive win Saturday at Richmond Raceway (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox).
So, he will undoubtedly love every moment leading to the green flag Saturday night, right? Not necessarily.
Busch should have a smile on his face at Richmond, but he knows Friday will present a challenge. For four hours, Busch won’t have a lot to do between the final NASCAR Cup practice and qualifying.
For so many years, Busch would have run double duty competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series before hustling to Cup practice.
But the opportunities for double duty have dwindled in recent years, especially on the Xfinity side. That hasn’t pleased Busch, although it could be assumed that it’s a good thing — he won at Texas and Bristol the past two weeks when he had to focus only on driving the Cup car for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch doesn’t look at it that way. His Fridays are no fun now.
For those who think Busch should have quality time with son Brexton on Friday, think again. Brexton, who turns 3 next month, has plans when Busch doesn’t have to be in the car.
“Typically when I’m not in the Xfinity car … 2 to 4 [in the afternoon] is usually Brexton’s nap time, so it’s not like I can even go back to the bus and spend time with him,” Busch said. “So I’m kind of stuck in la-la land trying to figure out what I’m going to do for four hours, so I get kind of bored sometimes.”
With the new NASCAR rules this year, Busch can compete in only seven Xfinity races (down from 10 in 2017) and five Truck races (down from seven in 2017). No driver who earns points in the Cup series can compete in the four Dash 4 Cash races in Xfinity nor the final eight races of the Xfinity and Truck seasons — the final race to make the playoffs and the seven playoff races.
Sitting in the bus or the hauler during the two Xfinity practices while waiting for qualifying to start has actually bothered Busch more than missing the race on Saturday. “Fridays are way worse,” Busch said. “Saturdays get pretty busy when you’re running two or sometimes three [races in a weekend], but Fridays are definitely way worse because you’re stuck just not doing anything.”
So what does he do? He says he can only talk to crew chief Adam Stevens for so long.
“Adam is about tired of me in the hauler because I keep coming to him with ideas and he’s like, ‘You’ve got to go,'” Busch said. “Apparently those ideas aren’t good ideas.”
Busch will get back to some double-duty weekends soon. He will compete in the May 11 Truck race at Kansas and the May 26 Xfinity race at Charlotte.
“Certainly wish I was running more races,” Busch said. “I always miss the chance to get behind the wheel and getting out there.”
So it was no surprise Thursday to find Busch at a racetrack, wheeling a late-model stock in the Denny Hamlin Foundation Short-Track Showdown at Langley (Virginia) Speedway.
The flat, paved 0.395-mile oval served as the perfect place for Busch to focus on racing away from the Cup car. At events such as the one at Langley, Busch doesn’t have to worry about learning something for Sunday. He just goes out and races.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any more opportunity here, but you enjoy being in the race car,” Busch said. “It’s about going out there, making laps, having fun and racing in different cars, different venues, things like that against different competitors.”
Busch was driving a chassis built by his company, Rowdy Manufacturing, and it’s a different vibe than when he races Xfinity. It’s at these events where his talent truly gets tested as he competes against local drivers with many more laps at the racetrack. They have track knowledge that Busch doesn’t.
“It’s just fun,” Busch said. “This is their home turf. This is their track. This is where they hone all their skills and have all of the laps and have all of the notes it takes to be fast at these places.
“You try to come in here on a day and try to beat them. It’s not always easy.”
But just like in Xfinity or Truck, Busch can’t just come in and race for the thrill of racing. He has just one thing on his mind, and that is what makes him so good but also can get him in trouble.
Who cares if he wins the Denny Hamlin Foundation race?
“You try to keep it as much fun as you can,” Busch said. “There’s still one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and win. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think that I had a shot to come out here and win.
“There are guys that have done these things that show up and just get in the car and qualify and race. They don’t care how they do. … I’m always about trying to go out there and try to win a race, whether it’s a shopping cart or a Cup car.”