Being a successful mentor requires a special balance, one Kyle Busch seems to have mastered in 11 years as a team owner and is starting to learn in just five years as a father.
Busch has coached two drivers to NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championships: Erik Jones and Christopher Bell. Jones was 19 years old and Bell was 22 years old when they won their titles with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
Now Busch is teaching his own son, Brexton, how to properly wheel a motorized vehicle.
“He listens to what I say, it‘s just that I‘m not sure he believes in himself that he can do what I‘m saying yet, which I totally understand and get,” Busch told NASCAR.com Wednesday. “He‘s new. He‘s very, very new, so that process of teaching someone who is 5 years old and just getting started and getting into it is way different than somebody that‘s been racing cars for 10 or 15 years and understands a heck of a lot more about it. I definitely expect a lot more from the KBM guys than I probably do my son at this point.”
Kyle Busch Motorsports boasts a record seven Gander Truck Series owner championships on top of the most career wins (79) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). The standards are high there, considering the team has won races in every season since its 2010 debut. Its drivers move up in the NASCAR world, too.
Jones and Bell currently race in the Cup Series, as do former full-time KBM pilots Bubba Wallace and William Byron. They‘ve all had four or less years of experience at the top level, while Busch is on his 16th full-time season. Still relatively new in comparison to the two-time, reigning champion.
“If they come to me, certainly I give as much advice and as much help as I possibly can,” Busch said. “But there are some times I tell them flat out, ‘Look, I‘m gonna hold back some information from you. I‘m gonna give you 80% of the information. I‘m going to get you heading down the right path. You gotta figure out the final 20% on your own.’ ”
Jones has actually been Busch‘s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing for the past three seasons, including the ongoing 2020 slate. Busch steers the No. 18 Toyota. Jones handles the No. 20 entry. Bell is a JGR affiliate in the No. 95 Toyota with Leavine Family Racing, which is in its final year.
Last week, JGR announced it’ll part ways with Jones at the end of the season. This week, Bell was named the replacement for next season.
“I brought Erik Jones in,” Busch said. “Look, I‘m one of the first guys that will tell you I absolutely hate hearing it, hate seeing that he‘s not going to be with us next year.”
But Busch also acknowledges Jones has yet to win this year and Jones’ one-year contact is nearing its expiration date. Jones had one win each year in both 2018 and 2019.
“It‘s just a performance-based business,” Busch said. “That‘s what it boils down to.”
Bell, meanwhile, is just a rookie. His full potential is still unknown.
These are all off-track lessons Brexton will also eventually learn from his father. One day. Down the road. When the time is right.
Right now, the focus is getting Brexton comfortable in the driver’s seat.
“You try to be gentle enough with him that he likes it, that it can still be fun for him,” Busch said. “But you try to be forceful enough, tell him like, ‘Hey, we gotta go faster, we gotta get better, we gotta do this and we gotta do that‘ in order for him to have that competitive nature, too. There‘s a balance, and we‘re trying to figure all that out — him and me.”