Pressure off: Kyle Busch, Beshore check win box at Kansas, strive for more

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The numbers generated by Kyle Busch in a sweepingly successful weekend at Kansas Speedway were bulky and brag-worthy.

His win tallies rose to a series-leading 61 in Camping World Trucks and another 58 in the Cup Series, tying him with Kevin Harvick for ninth all-time there. His first victory of the year on the Cup side also bumped him to 17 consecutive seasons with a win, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson and pulling him to just one year behind the all-time mark of 18 straight by King Richard Petty.

RELATED: Birthday toast for Busch at Kansas | Cup Series standings

Another number — a much smaller number — was just as momentous by contrast, and that’s the “1” that now resides in crew chief Ben Beshore’s win column as a big-league crew chief. Sunday’s broadcast captured Beshore’s elation atop the pit box after the checkered flag, but he admitted later to a mixture of relief blended in with the joy.

“A little of both. I’d say 50-50,” Beshore said after Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400. “Extremely excited, especially for my team to be able to come out here and grab a win and lock ourselves in the playoffs. Relief at the same time to prove that we can do it, that we have the speed in the cars and we can go out there and do it.”

Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Beshore was installed as the crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota team in the offseason in hopes of reviving Busch’s tradition of success. Busch had won 28 races and two Cup Series titles in six years with crew chief Adam Stevens, but last season the two went an agonizing 34 races before they scratched the win column at Texas Motor Speedway.

Enter Beshore, who had served as a race engineer for the No. 18 team, but moved up after a four-win season as crew chief for JGR’s Harrison Burton in the Xfinity Series in 2020. Now both crew chiefs have wins to their credit this year — Stevens in just the second start of his new role on the No. 20 team with Christopher Bell, and Beshore in the season’s 11th race.

FROM 2020: Inside Ben Beshore’s path to NASCAR

Beshore confessed, “I’d be lying if I said I wanted to wait until the 11th or 12th race and that being our first win.” But crossing off that goal in the springtime, nearly a third of the way through the season remains far more welcome timing-wise than a frustratingly long wait until late October — especially given the bright spotlight on his role as crew chief for one of the sport’s true greats.

“It’s a big deal to win. It’s a lot of pressure to win. We’re expected to win,” Beshore said. “When you’ve got a two-time champion like Kyle Busch, you expect to go out there and run up front in the top five every race and just be there at the end. So yeah, it was a big deal.

“And then the question about the pressure being off for winning and locking ourselves in the playoffs there is huge. We can maybe experiment a little bit later in the season or just go for some more raw speed type stuff. But it was huge, and it’s a lot of pressure off, to be honest.”

The pressure valve on Busch’s longevity streak has also been relieved. The next step is regaining his form as a driver with multiple wins each year. In every season from 2015-2019, Busch’s victory tally totaled four or more. “We’ve got to get back on that,” said Busch, basking in both victory and his 36th birthday. “I’m telling Ben every day, we’ve got to win 10 races this year so I can get that average back up.”

There’s still work to do in re-establishing the No. 18 team’s consistency, but similar days to Sunday would bring more of those gaudy numbers and post-race bows that Busch & Co. are accustomed to.

“We’re ready to get back on track, and it’s been a while, but I could feel it,” said Coy Gibbs, JGR’s vice chairman. “Him and Ben are clicking, so we’re looking for a lot more.”