Busch, 38, has already amassed a Hall of Fame-worthy career of statistics and appeared to pick up right where he left off joining Richard Childress Racing this season after more than 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch has won three times in 2023 and qualified for the playoffs but his performance since the advent of the Next Gen car last year has been somewhat erratic.
His only win last season came at the Bristol Dirt Race, taking the victory only when the leaders wrecked ahead of him. He finished 13th in the final series standings, his lowest finish since 2012.
This year, Busch has failed to finish more races (six) than he has victories (three).
Kyle Busch spinning out on his own in a race? Virtually unheard of in his career, but has become an occasional occurrence of late, including as recently as last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
While RCR may not be quite on par with JGR in terms of performance, Busch believes a large part of the problem is his own driving style and a need to adjust to the times, or in this case, the new car.
“I think when we’ve had really good cars, I’ve just over-tried. In 2017, 2018, whatever when we were super-fast all the time – I always think back to the golden days – you could drive from the back of the field to the front of the field. You could make something happen,” he said.
“I still feel like I can do that – I can drive from the back of the field to the front of the field. But in reality, with this car, equipment, talent and everything being so equal, the SMT data – everybody seeing it and being so equal – it’s tougher than ever to pass the guy in front of you.
“So, I guess that’s kind of been a bit of my demise, which is I don’t feel like I can do as much as I want to be able to do. Me overtrying has sort of hurt my race craft, if you will and (why) I haven’t been finishing, frankly.”
The key, Busch believes, to have consistent success in the Cup Series today requires a lot of patience, admittedly not his best trait.
“With me and this Next Gen car, look at how many times I’ve spun out and crashed, you know what I mean. It’s just stupid compared to what it has been over time,” he said. “I still have some work to do on figuring that out.
“But also, I’m a very non-patient person and you have to show some patience in these races. They’re long races. Last week in the first stage, pushing and literally then just telling myself, ‘OK, forget it, back up. Let’s finish this stage.’
“I just finished telling myself to just make it to the end of the stage and I’m backwards. I don’t know how exactly, but we’ve got to fix it. I’ve got to fix it.”
In danger of playoff elimination
With the bad finish at Texas, Busch enters Sunday’s race at Talladega 12th in the playoff standings. He sits 17 points below the cutoff line with two races in which to either gain a win and automatically advance, or perform well enough to dig himself out of the hole he’s in.
One of Busch’s three wins this season came at the spring race at Talladega, so another victory is not out of the question.
“I think you come in here with your stress-meter pegged, regardless of whether you’re 30-points to the good or 30-behind,” he said. “We obviously know in our situation that we’re further behind, so you have to race.
“With these cars and the way the race plays out, it’s so hard to make moves, make passes and get yourself track position whenever you want it. You can’t, so you’ve got to hold it when you’ve got it.
“There’s so many variables – you just have to race it out and don’t worry about it. What happens, happens.”