BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 FICO Chevrolet, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) | Getty Images
BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 FICO Chevrolet, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Kyle Busch points to Dover and Kansas to get back on track

By Dustin Albino

Aside from the opening month of the NASCAR Cup Series season, 2024 has been a struggle for Kyle Busch and the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team.

Busch fired out of the gate fast during the Busch Light Clash, and powered to the front to lead 12 laps in the Daytona 500. He followed that up by finishing third in an epic three-wide, photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, losing the race by mere inches to Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney.

The Sin City native returned home as the regular season championship leader. Busch believed his car was capable of winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he had issues on pit road throughout the race and finished 26th.

“We had a great shot to win every single one of them,” Busch told Jayski.com of the opening month of the 2024 season. “We just had different reasons and issues that arose during those races that kept us out of positions to gain those points or get those wins.”

In the eight races since Busch finished on the podium at Atlanta, he has a pair of ninth-place finishes. Every other result has been outside the top 15, dropping to 18th on the playoff grid, 12 points below the elimination line.

“It’s definitely not where we want to be, but I’m not shocked,” Busch said. “We haven’t scored the finishes that we need. That’s what it boils down to. When you can get finishes, stage (points) the way that you need to then you know you’re going to be alright.”

Data and details have always been important to the two-time Cup Series champion. With practice being limited to 20 minutes on most race weekends, he believes that has hurt his ability to adjust the No. 8 car for changes to make it race ready.

Busch also keeps a spreadsheet of all the points the No. 8 team has given away throughout the season, whether of its own doing or not.

“We’re 89 points to the negative on that sheet,” Busch added. “That’s not winning races, it’s just getting the finishes that we deserve in the races and how we were running at the time when something went wrong. Give me all those points and we’re in a completely different talking zone.”

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 16: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 FICO Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series  Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The biggest point of emphasis has been RCR’s short-track program, which Busch also struggled with in his first season with the team. Three of the four tracks that have used a short-track package have resulted in finishes of 20th or worse for Busch.

Pit crew woes have also hindered the No. 8 team, leading to multiple changes already. Busch also takes some of the blame with a practice crash at Texas after unloading fast off the hauler. He finished ninth in the team’s backup car.

“A lot of different things that keep adding up,” Busch said of 2024.

The next stretch of races are pivotal for Busch. Last year at Dover Motor Speedway, he led the opening 22 laps before he was caught speeding on pit road and the race spiraled. He also pointed to Kansas Speedway as a strong track for the No. 8 team, finishing seventh at the 1.5-mile facility during the playoffs last season.

“These two places will be really good for us to get our footing back in the right direction and find a good, solid basis to land on in order to build into the summer,” Busch said.

Dover will be Busch’s second race repping FICO colors in part of a two-race deal with RCR in 2024. In the sponsor’s debut race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the eight-time Bristol winner led a handful of laps before blowing a tire towards the end of the opening stage.

Since departing Joe Gibbs Racing, where Busch repped Mars Inc. for 15 years, he and RCR have introduced plenty of new sponsors to NASCAR. In 2024 alone, Zone, Rebel Bourbon and FICO joined Busch’s No. 8 Chevrolet.

“It’s been fun and cool to get to know and learn about all the different companies that we’ve had the opportunity to promote on our racecars but also be a part of what they want to do off the track in order to deliver their message,” Busch said. “Rowdy Nation is one of the strongest allegiance of fans out there amongst the NASCAR fans, so I feel like everybody has dipped well into that.”

Later this season, Global Industrial, which has sponsored RCR at the Xfinity Series level for the past two seasons, will be the next brand to align itself with Busch.