KURT BUSCH, HAVING ‘A BLAST’ AT 23XI RACING, IS NASCAR'S VETERAN VOICE

Via Forbes - April 15, 2022



Kurt Busch is having the time of his life in his first year racing for Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin at 23XI Racing.


At 43, Busch has settled into the role as one of Nascar’s veteran voices, having competed full time in the Cup Series since 2000. The 2003 series champion understands the ins and outs of the sport, and he speaks out when he feels something isn’t right.


Most of all, Busch is no longer a hot-headed racer. Instead of being agitated, he’s now smiling from ear-to-ear. 23XI, he said, is home.


“For me, with all of the teams I’ve been with, to build this from the ground-up and hiring employees, getting a group of people assembled in the beginning stage has been a fun challenge,” Busch said. “It seems like appropriate timing for my career to be in this position and to give my fingerprints and input to this No. 45 car. I’m not going to be racing forever, so it’s fun to start it up from this point.”


Busch joined 23XI Racing as a teammate to Bubba Wallace, who captured the organization’s first victory at Talladega Superspeedway last October. The No. 45 on the side of his Toyota Camry is a tribute to Jordan, who wore that number in 1995, when he came out of retirement from the NBA.


Thus far, Busch’s journey of starting a brand-new team from scratch is a challenge. But it’s one he welcomes at this stage in his life. Through the first eight races of the Nascar Cup Series season, his new team has two top fives and four top 10s, though had an early parts failure two weeks ago at Richmond.


“Every week, there’s so much to learn,” Busch said. “There’s so much difference right now. You have to go to the racetrack with years of experience, but also with an open mind. You have to be fluid with all of the changing things. We’ve had some top five runs and we’ve led some laps. We have to get sharper and better in all of the categories. So far, I’d say it’s a thumbs up. We need to continue pushing forward.”


If Busch can win a race this year, his first year driving a Toyota, he’ll be able to say he’s won for every manufacturer he’s driven for, including Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge. Plus, a triumph would extend his winning streak to nine years in a row with at least one win.


“To win for Toyota, 23XI, Monster Energy, Money Lion, Jumpman, Embrace Home Loans and McDonald’s, it would be a dream come true,” he said. “That’s what I’m pushing for. To have all of the manufacturers checked off, that would be a unique element that not a lot of people have.”


Busch understands his role at 23XI Racing. Now at a ripe age of 43, he’s someone who’s experienced plenty of ups and downs, both on and off the track.


The trials and tribulations he’s faced makes him a perfect leader for this sophomore team. He’s able to guide the team, and it made more sense for him to join 23XI rather than any other organization at this point in his career.


“It was a lot of arrows pointing in the same direction,” Busch said. “Toyota asked me, as a veteran, if I was available to come in and start a brand-new team.

“Monster Energy loved this opportunity to be paired up with Toyota and JGR. The branding and powerfulness of 23XI with MJ and Denny, it just seemed like the right fit all the way around, using my 22 years of experience to build the team.”


As Busch continues to settle in with 23XI Racing, he’s relaxed and motivated. The idea of being a leader suits him well, and it is one that is motivating hunt of his second Cup championship.


“To put different hats on and help different crew members develop, to use some self-deprecating humor every now and then to lighten things up to showing a work ethic,” Busch said. “I’m early. I go to the gym with the guys and I also work with the marketing group. I’m using my experience to have fun with it.”


Busch’s last win came at Atlanta last July. Now, he’s ready to celebrate once again.