By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
* Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into this month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 13
Career Wins: 43 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victories, 2015 Champion
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season was one of the best for Kyle Busch. Busch, the 2015 Premier Series Champion was the runner-up to fellow Toyota driver, and 2017 Champion Martin Truex, Jr.
Toyota Racing accounted for 16 victories in 2017. Of those 16 victories that propelled Toyota to their second consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship, Busch accounted for five. The Las Vegas, NV native also earned 14 top-fives, 22 top-10s, and eight pole positions in Toyota’s most dominant season to date.
“I would think with us finishing out the season as strong as we did that we have a little bit of an advantage over the rest of them, just because we have that known, but some of the unknowns with the rule changes and things with the splitter and the fans and the this and the that that’s happening with the cars is going to be a little bit of an equalizer for some of the teams. I would like to think that we’d be a little bit farther ahead, but I would think that we’d all be pretty even,” Busch said of his 2018 prospects.
Following the departure of Matt Kenseth, Busch ascends to the role of veteran at Joe Gibbs Racing. Sophomore driver, and Busch’s protégé, Erik Jones moves from Furniture Row Racing to take the reins of Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry. This puts Busch into the leadership position at JGR.
Busch explained what he learned from the veterans he has competed with,
“I would say the time that I had with Jimmie Johnson was really, really good. Jimmie and I, we really enjoyed working with one another and really respected one another. Still do to today. I’d probably say Tony Stewart. I only got to spend a year with him but learned a little bit from him with that season that I had in 2008. And then since then I’d say Matt was probably one of the top guys that I’ve learned about being able to communicate and share and be a teammate in that respect.”
While expectations remain high for the 2018 Toyota Camry, there are expectations that Chevrolet’s new Camaro ZL1 will provide some stiff competition. Meanwhile, Busch, crew chief Adam Stevens, and the entire No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry team look to continue where they left off last season.