18. Kurt Busch

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In their first year as an organization, 23XI Racing scored their first win with Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway. It came in a rain-shortened race on one of NASCAR's wild card tracks, but the energy surrounding it brought this team to a new level and energized their sponsors.

Paying $15 million for a second charter is intended to continue that growth and the signing of 22-year Cup veteran Kurt Busch should allow them to get another win in 2022. Busch is currently riding an eight-race streak of winning at least one race per year, which places him fourth on the active winners list behind his brother Kyle Busch (17 years), Brad Keselowski (11), and Joey Logano (10). In that span of races, Busch has not won more than twice in a season and during his career, he has topped out at four.

Slow and steady is the term that best describe Busch's performance most years. He is at the front of the pack as often as he might like, but at this stage of his career, top-fives are just as likely to buoy his spirit. Last year, Busch had six top-fives and that is in keeping with his performance during the past five seasons.

Currently Busch is at his best on tracks where he controls his own fate. His 2021 victory came in a dramatic showdown with his brother in Atlanta 2 and locked him into the playoffs. The 33rd of his career, it tied him for 25th on the all-time wins list with Fireball Roberts.

Last year, the bulk of his success came on drivers' tracks, however.

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Busch finished sixth or better in four of the seven road course races last year and was 13th in one other event. He was sixth on the rough-surfaced Darlington Raceway, seventh at Martinsville Speedway, and eighth in the inaugural race at Nashville Superspeedway.

Busch's real strength, however, is consistency. Top-10s have been coming with less frequency in recent years, dropping from 22 in 2018 to 18 and 19 in 2019/2020 respectively, and 14 last year. His top-15s and -20s remain among the best in the field with a top-20 record of 75 percent.

Busch finished outside the top 25 six times last year; four of these were because of accidents and one was due to a blown engine. The other came at the Circuit of the Americas when he had one of the most dramatic near-misses after wheel hopping in the rain and squeezing between two rivals.

The X Factor in 2022 will be his move to the new team. While we expect 23XI Racing to continue to improve, nothing is certain. Teammate Wallace earned only three top-10s last year as this organization found its footing. Just in his fifth full-time season – and first at a marquee level – a lot of pressure is being placed on his shoulders.

But that is potentially where Busch has the capacity to make his greatest impact and improve the results of both teams. He has always been a fiery driver who does not deal well with setbacks. But he has never really accepted the role of mentor before. Busch's pairing with Ross Chastain in the past couple of seasons did not seem to have the same dynamic as how 2022 is being portrayed.

Busch could elevate the level of performance at 23XI and have a better season than we expect. If he gets a win in the first 26 races and extends his streak to nine years, he will be worth a weekly wager for the outright win since his odds are likely to be somewhere in the mid +3000s.

Three Best Tracks *
Auto Club (12.2 in 27 attempts)
Sonoma (13.2 in 20)
Charlotte road (13.5 in 4)

Three Worst Tracks *
Las Vegas (20.9 in 24)
Martinsville (19.5 in 43)
Daytona (18.4 in 42)

2021 Stats
Victories: Atlanta 2
Top-fives: 6 (.167)
Top-10s: 14 (.389)
Top-15s: 10 (.556)
Top-20s: 22 (.750)

2021 Finishes at or above rank = 24 (66.7%)

* Active tracks with three or more starts

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25. Chase Briscoe: 2021 ROTY
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