Two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion – it’s a title Kyle Busch wears proudly as driver of the No. 18 M&M’S/Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) during the 2020 season, his 16th full season in NASCAR’s top series.
The 34-year-old from Las Vegas punctuated his latest milestone-filled campaign in 2019 with a dominating victory at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which clinched his second Cup Series title in five years and further immersed his presence among North American stock car racing’s most elite competitors of all-time.
Busch’s fifth and final victory of 2019 was the 56th of his Cup Series career, second among active drivers only to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s 83, and his second career Cup Series title made Busch the only active driver other than Johnson to own multiple championships. The 56th career victory for Busch also broke a tie for ninth place on the all-time Cup Series wins list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.
In the bigger picture, the 2019 season saw Busch surpass yet another career milestone – 200 wins in NASCAR’s top three series (Cup, Xfinity and Truck). His five wins each in the Cup Series and Truck Series and another four in the Xfinity Series in 2019 lifted Busch’s career total to 208. Busch’s 96 Xfinity Series wins and 56 Truck Series wins are all-time highs for both series.
After crossing the 50 career wins plateau in the Cup Series with his eight wins in 2018, vaulting Busch past the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Bill Elliott, Buck Baker and Herb Thomas, and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Stewart, he and his fifth-year crew chief Adam Stevens were already in championship form over the first half of the 2019 campaign. Four wins in the season’s first 14 events, including back-to-back efforts at ISM Raceway near Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and his eighth career Cup Series win at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, made Busch a clear favorite to bring home his second career title by season’s end.
Busch would not win again until his title-clinching effort at the Homestead finale, but he and his team rode the consistency of their 10 top-five finishes over the final 22 events to the their second series crown. He won the 26-race regular-season championship and opened his 10-race, four-round playoff run seeded first among the 16 playoff competitors in the standings. Most importantly, Busch’s series-high 45 playoff points, combined with his consistent finishes, helped him easily advance through the opening three rounds and into his fifth consecutive appearance in the Championship 4. Busch led a race-high 120 of 267 laps in his title-clinching race at Homestead and crossed the finish line a comfortable 4.5 second ahead of his JGR teammate and 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.
While Busch’s 2019 championship came courtesy of a full season’s worth of consistent finishes and steady teamwork by the M&M’S/Interstate Batteries crew, safe to say Busch’s first Cup Series title run in 2015 was among the most improbable in racing history.