By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. have had their share of battles in NASCAR, dating back to 15 years ago when both were championship contenders in the Busch Series (now known as Xfinity).
The duo combined for 11 wins and 12 poles in 2004, with Truex winning his first of two championships that season. Meanwhile, Busch ended up second in the final standings, but dominated the Rookie of the Year battle by winning top honors.
Fast forward to 2019, they’re now both champions in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and for the first-time ever, teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. Despite joining forces, their rivalry has grown and it’s become one of the main storylines heading into Sunday’s Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
This is coming off a tremendous race win battle between the two in last Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, which Truex won over Busch. As a result, each have four wins apiece this season with both eyeing to become the first five-time winner.
During Saturday’s press conference, Truex also said it’s a friendly rivalry, more so today compared to previous years when challenges occurred due to Truex being with different teams such as Michael Waltrip Racing and Furniture Row Racing.
“It has been really good. We were joking all weekend last weekend,” Truex on Busch. “It was cool to put it in victory lane and get the back-and-forth on pit lane. It was really cool that he stuck his head in there and to see all those guys after the race was really good. I’m sure they weren’t over the moon happy with me winning, but they were very respectful and great teammates about it.”
Busch also described his rivalry with Truex as a friendly ordeal, not letting incidents get in the way as they would typically joke around on and off the track.
“We everything out on the table,” Busch on Truex. “We have crashed each other a few times, and we have been pissed at each other a few times, but a couple weeks later we are back to business and we are joking around in meetings and we are working with one another and stuff like that.
“You are going to have those situations that happen just because of how close we are running. We try to give each other the space you need and the respect that each of us deserve. Sometimes we run into one another, but that happens. But it has been good overall.”
During his days at Furniture Row, Truex recalled times when the 2015 champion would tell the press how he wasn’t sure how they outperform the JGR cars due to certain information benefiting the 2017 champion. Now being at JGR, Truex sees the information helping them overall due to the insights he’s provided.
“I think more so for them, especially Kyle,” said Truex. “He was always saying in the media ‘I don’t know how the 78 is doing that.’ There is definitely more insight into that now. For me, I am always kind of trying to look at what everybody is doing, but there is not a really big change there.”
While each put everything on the line to contend for wins and championships, Busch commented that he’s nothing like Truex as his outspoken and brash personality is a complete contrast to the much more laid-back and reserved Truex.
“He comes across way different than I do. I am a bit more outspoken and brash,” said Busch. “I think that is where we can complement each other. There are times in meetings that I just want to come out and blurt out something and I kind of just hold it in and I let Martin say it and he says in a better way than I ever could have thought it. He kind of gets my point across or vice versa.
“If I feel like he doesn’t say it hard enough, then I will get in. That’s the same with Denny (Hamlin). (Erik) Jones is a little more reserved, a little more inexperienced, but he has been speaking up a lot lately. So, it’s a good mix of what we have as a team.”
Truex said that he’s similar to Busch when walking to the garage and strapping into the Toyota Camrys, preparing for battle on a weekly basis. Other than that, contrast personalities from an emotional standpoint.
“We are definitely a lot different people. In the garage or in the car, I would say we are very similar. Very intense, very focused, not settling for anything but first,” said Truex. “But outside of the car, I would say I am a lot calmer. I can hold my emotions in check a little bit better than maybe Kyle. I think aside from that, we are very similar.
“I don’t know how he is with his family or away from the track, so I cannot answer that. But I would say we are similar for sure at the race track, besides maybe being able to keep calm when the microphone is in my hands.”
Both have two wins at Chicagoland Speedway, looking for a third after Sunday’s 267-lap race. For now, they’ll shift their focus onto qualifying later today as they’ll fight for the coveted Busch Pole Award for the first time this season.