NASCAR Cup Series veteran Kurt Busch enjoys talking shop and sharing driving tips with his new boss Michael Jordan, an NBA icon who is new to the racing car industry.
Busch, 43, broke off his three-year relationship with Chip Ganassi last August and signed to drive the No. 45 Toyota Camry for NASCAR’s newcomer to the pit row, 23XI Racing.
Busch has partnered as a Jordan Brand athlete with Basketball Hall of Fame legend and current Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin in an ambitious joint venture. 23XI Racing is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, and he and Bubba Wallace are the team’s star drivers.
“It’s cool, he’s our team owner and he’s got that power and that charisma and yeah, he’s the GOAT,” Busch said. “But at the same time he wants to talk shop, he wants to know more about the little things that make the difference and make our team better. He asks me ‘What do you need to make this team better?’ He is an inspiration to every part of our team and you just have to see his involvement.
“I thought I had a strong work ethic when I came here and he brings that even more to everyone here. That’s the spirit that 23XI has behind it, that’s MJ’s work ethic and championship effort every day.
Jordan joins former Washington Commanders head coach Joe Gibbs as owners of racing teams who made their fortunes at other professional sports venues.
The NFL/NBA connection itself creates a budding rivalry that takes shape down the line. The interesting twist to this plot is that Hamlin and Busch’s younger brother, Kyle Busch, both competes under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner.
“I’ll tell you, Denny Hamlin deserves so much credit,” Busch said. “MJ still gets the big name up top, but Denny is in hiding. Denny works hard behind the scenes. I’m happy to race for him and MJ.
Busch brought instant credibility to 23XI Racing when he joined the team. He is the 2004 Cup Series champion in his 22nd season with 34 wins, 161 top 5s and 338 top 10s on his resume.
Operation under the direction of team manager Billy Scott, with whom he worked for a season at Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch visited Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway on May 17 and has five top fives and seven top 10s so far. The Advent Health 400 was Busch’s first victory in a Toyota race car.
Busch followed his second-place finish at the Nashville Superspeedway on June 27 with a 23rd-place finish Sunday in the Kwik Trip 250 at the Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Busch remained 15th in the driver standings with 424 points, but he punched his ticket to the Cup Series playoffs with the win at Kansas.
Busch will make his 39th start on the Magic Mile when the Cup Series tour heads north for the Ambetter 301 on Sunday July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH He has amassed a stellar NHMS record since he was finished 42nd in his Magic July 22, 2001 On July 22, 2001 Jack Roush’s crew made their New England 300 mile debut.
Busch (2004) and Jimmie Johnson (2003) are the only drivers to have won both races on the Magic Mile as the NHMS has held two races in the same calendar year. Matt Kenseth won back-to-back races in 2015 and 2016.
The last time the NHMS had a summer and fall racing schedule was the 2017 season. Busch has the opportunity to match Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton as the only four-time winners at the NHMS.
Busch recalled his early days on the tour battling New England’s favorite son, Ricky Craven of Newburgh, Maine. Craven was hailed as the best stock car driver to come out of New England until Joey Logano of Middletown, Conn., began his meteoric rise on the circuit in 2008.
Logano was 19 years, one month and four days old when he became the youngest driver to win a Cup Series race on June 28, 2009 in the Lenox 301 in New Hampshire.
“It’s crazy to hear 39 races up there, but I still love going to New Hampshire,” Busch said. “I had a fun run with Ricky Craven years ago at Darlington and when I came back there the fans really embraced me because of the cool factor of running their hero. Ricky Craven was their hero of New England.
“With the race wins in the past and the fans, I’m always motivated to go up there and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s their New England track and they’re proud of their track in their backyard. court.