With age comes appreciation. With maturity comes perspective. At age 30, Kyle Busch is an entirely different first-time champion than he would have been had he ridden the tidal wave he was at the crest of when he took the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by storm in the summer of 2008.
The Kyle Busch of 2015 vintage knows now what it means to overcome adversity, and that not of his own making. He has seen a glimpse of an uncertain future in racing, and what it is like to rigorously train just for the chance to race again, let alone compete for a championship.
The Kyle Busch of today has a greater understanding that no one ascends to the mountain top alone. With his wife at his side, and his physical therapist coaching him along, Busch missed just 11 races- less than one-third of the season- with a broken leg and a broken foot.
When he returned, there was little room for margin of error. Kyle Busch had 14 races to earn one victory and attain enough points to reach the top 30. It meant that his Joe Gibbs Racing team, which has had its ups and downs, had to be on its game. The JGR team of 2014 would have had great difficulty in accomplishing those tasks. Owners Joe and JD Gibbs, crew chief Adam Stevens, and all the workers at the shop and on the pit crew had to be on their game. As a result of their efforts, the 18 was in a position to win virtually every week. Busch won not just one, but four victories to qualify for the Chase.
Over the years, Kyle Busch has had to better learn how to practice patience. Before news came that Kyle and Samantha were expecting their first child was the emotional roller coaster that comes with infertility. Speaking from first-hand experience, dealing with such an issue challenges your confidence, challenges your faith, and it may even challenge your marriage. Certainly, for those who make it through is a sense of “if I can make it through this, I can make it through just about anything.” Did this journey help make Kyle Busch a better, more patient man? I submit it did.
Lord only knows what a Kyle Busch championship victory celebration would have looked like in 2008. We can only speculate. The Kyle Busch of 2015 has the look of a more grateful, more appreciative and more mature racer. Speaking for myself, after all, at the heart of it, I’m just a fan with a platform to express his opinions, I am finding Kyle Busch as champion something I can feel good about as opposed to how I would have felt even three or four years ago.
From the beginning, there’s been no denying Kyle Busch had championship caliber talent. Now, after several seasons of near and not-so-near misses, stands a battle-tested champion- appreciative of just how great a climb it is to reach NASCAR’s summit.