Kyle Busch is one of the most talented and successful race car drivers in the history of motorsports. A total of 226 wins in NASCAR’s top-three divisions including 61 Cup Series triumphs prove that. Further, he is a two-time champion at the sport’s top level.
With all of those accolades, Busch is now looking to add another trophy to his collection but this would have to be earned outside his more common forms of competition. This is a driver who has stepped away from NASCAR on occasion and has experienced success. He won the highly coveted Snowball Derby for pavement-based Super Late Model cars at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in 2009 and 2017. Even though that race isn’t contested on dirt, it does, to a degree, show the 37-year-old driver’s flexibility and adaptability.
According to a recent announcement made on FloRacing.com, Busch will once again test his skills on dirt when the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge is held at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, TN on the same weekend in which the NASCAR Cup Series is slated to contest the Food City Dirt Race at the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway.
The car he will drive in Bulls Gap will be prepared by Wells Motorsports and is a sister car to that driven by Dirt Late Model star Brandon Overton.
Although he hasn’t always been heavily invested in dirt racing, the Las Vegas native has taken a bit more interest in that form of competition due his son Brexton’s involvement at dirt covered venues such as North Carolina’s Millbridge Speedway and all over the country. Now, the pavement ace is looking to himself make at least one start on dirt in preparation for driving in the Cup event at BMS.
This will not be Busch’s first experience in a Dirt Late Model racing machine at an upper east Tennessee facility. With the limited number of laps he has in this form of racing, can even such an accomplished NASCAR star expect to compete with those who race regularly on dirt?
There is evidence that, in fact, the driver known as ‘Rowdy’ could very well hold his own in a Dirt Late Model.
First, Busch was victorious in the 2022 Food City Dirt Race on the high banks in Bristol. Granted, that was in a NASCAR Cup Series car which is very much different from a significantly lighter and more powerful Dirt Late Model. Still, he has taken a checkered flag on dirt to go along with the many he has grabbed on pavement.
But even before that, Busch had proven that his talents are not limited to asphalt racing. In the 2021 Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals held after BMS had been covered in dirt for the first time in two decades, Busch drove a team car to Jonathan Davenport. Because that event was held on the same weekend as NASCAR races at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, multiple pavement aces including Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon had to shuttle back and forth in order to turn laps on dirt.
Busch turned in solid results on the first of two nights in the Dirt Nationals. Against a stout field of more than 50 Dirt Late Model regulars, the Cup Series star was 9th fastest in Group B qualifying. He then went on to win a B-main race which provided him with an 18th place starting position on the feature grid. Ultimately, he would make his way up to 13th in the short 25-lap main event.
But it was on the second night when Busch showed that he had quickly grown accustomed to his new surroundings. After missing qualifying due to completing a NASCAR practice session in Atlanta, Busch was forced to start his B-main race from the tail of the field. With no hot laps or qualifying on that night, he roared to a runner-up finish in that preliminary race. After starting the 40-lap feature from 20th, he eventually earned an 11th place finish.
By offering a $20,000-to-win purse, the April race at Volunteer will draw a highly competitive field of drivers and machines, especially after the high number of rainouts during the late winter and early spring. It will be tough for any driver, dirt regular or not, to run near the front of the field. And that will be particularly true of someone who has very little experience in this form of racing.
Still, as was said in the opening of this piece, Kyle Busch is one of the most talented drivers in the history of motorsports. Kyle Larson has proven that top NASCAR stars can be competitive, and win, in Dirt Late Models but it is key to remember that his background is on clay covered tracks.
I am not willing to predict that Busch will win in the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge but I am willing to say that anyone who thinks he will not make his mark has simply not been paying attention.
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