From the era of Jack Roush's Gong Show to the era of Covid and Next-Gen race cars, Kurt Busch has evolved and proven to be one of the most skilled stock car racers of all-time. He's won races competing against Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, a couple of Kyle's, and a slew of past Jr. champions named Dale, Sam , Ricky, and Martin.
His on-track success includes race victories ranging from 2002 to 2022. He currently holds the record for most playoff appearances of any driver in history for NASCAR's Cup Series. He's won Cup races in Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota for iconic team owners such as Roger Penske and Tony Stewart.
To follow is a year by year review of how a once wild character with fans and media became one of the most-loved in the garage.
Statchat: Made cup debut at Dover in September. Raced for Jack Roush Racing (RFK Racing) in a total of 7 events with a best race
Headlines: Cup debut.
Statchat: Competed in full season for Jack Roush Racing in the #97 Ford Taurus. Earned his first career pole at Darlington.
Headlines: He has noted his memories of competing against the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the 2001 Daytona 500 on more than one occasion.
Statchat: Earned a 3rd place overall in final championship standings as well as his first career win at Bristol Motor Speedway (his first in a Ford). Season total included 4 wins and 3 of final 5 races in the season.
Headlines: Feud started with NASCAR veteran Jimmy Spencer after contact at Bristol in the closing laps of the spring event. Their rivalry lasted many months and included reports of an assault from Jimmy to Kurt. They resolved their issues and appeared in TV segments together later in their careers.
Kurt's winning 'Million Dollar' Sharpie Ford that he drove to his first career Cup Series victory at Bristol in 2002. (Photo Credit: Autoweek)
Statchat: Four wins including a sweep at Bristol. Nine top fives, Fourteen top 10s and eight DNFs.
Headlines: His loss at Darlington over Ricky Craven came was closest margin of victory 0.002 seconds recorded in modern era. He also won the 2003 IROC Championship with a best finish of 1st at Talladega.
Statchat: NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion, first ever champion to win title in a playoff format. Total of 3 wins.
Headlines: Cup Series Champion, Kurt led the final seven weeks in the standings and survived a wheel falling off of his car in his final pit stop of the championship race at Homestead-Miami. Headlined in NASCAR Drivers: 360 television show. Competed in the 2004 IROC Championship with a best finish of 2nd at Daytona.
Kurt Busch poses with his trophy at the 2004 Awards Banquet (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Statchat: Three victories and runner up at the Daytona 500.
Headlines: Suspended by Jack Roush Racing after charges brought on driver by local law enforcement. Driver Kenny Wallace finishes season at Homestead-Miami driving the #97 Ford. Kurt and Penske Racing South (Now Team Penske) announce a multi-year deal for the Las Vegas native to take over driving duties of the famed #2 Miller Lite 'Blue Deuce' after legend Rusty Wallace retires. Competed in the 2005 IROC Championship with a best finish of 2nd at Richmond.
Statchat: One victory in his first season with Penske (his first in a Dodge), a return to victory lane at Bristol. Won his Xfinity Series debut at Texas driving for Penske, also won Xfinity Watkins Glen event.
Statchat: Two race victories, Pocono and Michigan.
Headlines: Feuded with his brother Kyle after the two crashed battling at the exhibition All-Star event. It has been reported that they did not speak for many months after the on track altercation.
Statchat: One win, rain-out win at New Hampshire. Runner-Up at Daytona 500 again.
Headlines: In finishing second to his teammate Ryan Newman, Penske earned a 1-2 finish in the seasoning opening Daytona 500. It was Penske's first win in the event.
Statchat: Two race wins at Atlanta and Texas. Finished the season in fourth place in standings.
Statchat: Two race victories at Atlanta and Charlotte. Finished 11th in standings. Won two poles, ending a lengthy drought of over two years without a first-place start. Won the All-Star race and Charlotte Coke 600 in consecutive weeks.
Statchat: Won Bud Shootout and Gatorade Duel, and started first in the Daytona 500.
Headlines: Switched teams with teammate Brad Keselowski and took-over a newly sponsored Shell/Pennzoil #22 Ford for Team Penske. Several layers of frustration led to incidents on and off track that earned him the nickname 'The Outlaw'. These included excessive swearing with reporters and his team, offering obscene gestures to NASCAR officials on pit road, and a well documented verbal abuse of ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch that led to the driver's probation and mutual leaving of Team Penske. Another incident between Kurt and Jenna Fryer at Richmond in the media center resulted in Kurt approaching Jenna and ripping her notes. Kurt competed in NHRA Pro Stock driving a Shell/Pennzoil sponsored Dodge entry. He joined only Richard Petty and John Andretti in having accomplished the crossover between the two sports.
Statchat: Ran a split season with Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing. Unable to close the deal on a win at Sonoma, lost after a classic battle with eventual race winner Clint Bowyer. First season in career Kurt did not win a Cup race.
Headlines: One run-in with Bob Pockrass, where he implied he was prohibited from attacking Pockrass due to his probation from previous season. Kurt ran a schedule on a handshake deal with Phoenix Racing owner James Finch. After part-time success in independent Furniture Row Racing, Kurt was offered a full time contract for the 2013 season in the #78. Introduced sponsor Monster Energy to success on and off track through intense marketing initiatives.
Statchat: Tenth place championship standings overall, with one pole at Darlington. No wins, but became first single car driver/team to earn a playoff berth since it's inception in 2004.
Headlines: Praised car owner Barney Visser regularly, and appeared to be enjoying the single-car team.
Statchat: Earned first victory with new team Stewart-Haas Racing, a coveted checkered flag at Martinsville Virginia (his first in a Chevrolet). Finished 12th in series standings overall. Competed in both the Indianapolis 500 (finished 6th and was Rookie of The Race) and Coke 600 in same day. Competed in the 2014 Race of Champions alongside teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Statchat: Two race victories at Richmond and Michigan, with three poles in the #41 Chevrolet. Finished 8th in championship standings.
Headlines: Despite facts now being known that Kurt was not found guilty, he was suspended due to allegations of domestic violence from ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Patricia was later ordered to a sentence of 12 months in prison on tax fraud.
Statchat: Earned tenth career playoff appearance and had a victory at Pocono. Finished 7th in overall championship point standings.
Statchat: 2017 Daytona 500 Champion. Earned his 11th career playoff berth, finishing 14th in final championship standings.
Headlines: Married wife Ashley on January 7th, 2017. Team switched to Ford beginning with the Daytona 500, an unexpected move for Stewart-Haas Racing. Was regularly featured in online marketing and Youtube videos for Monster Energy's '#Doonies'
Kurt Busch crosses finish line in 2017 Daytona 500. (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Statchat: Won race at Bristol in August, statistically speaking his best track for wins, his sixth overall. He made the playoffs for the 12th time and earned 5 poles, more than any other driver. 2018 was his final year at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Headlines: Driver and team announced he would not return in 2019, but would be replaced by recent Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez. Kurt took longtime partner Monster Energy with him to new team Chip Ganassi Racing.
Statchat: Won Kentucky event driving for new team Chip Ganassi Racing's #1 Chevrolet. This was the team's first win for the #1 program in six seasons. Earned a 13th playoff berth.
Headlines: Started new contract with Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing long-time loyalist Jamie McMurray behind the wheel of the solo-digit car. McMurray would move to a part time driving role and cover the sport as an analyst with Fox Sports. Defeated his younger brother in a celebrated duel to earn his first victory at Kentucky. Re-signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for multiple seasons after the success of the 2019 campaign.
Statchat: Earned one win, this time at Las Vegas. Earned his 14th career playoff spot, and finished 10th overall in the championship standings.
Headlines: Extended his consecutive winning seasons streak to 7 years in a row with at least one cup victory. Earned his playoff spot on points, as his victory would come later in the playoffs. Continued off-track marketing with longtime sponsor Monster despite them leaving the sport as title sponsor at the start of the year.
Statchat: Earned an unexpected victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, extending his streak to eight consecutive years with at least one win. This placed him into the sports playoffs for the fifteenth time, a record that he shared with NASCAR elite Jimmie Johnson.
Headlines: Earned fifteenth playoff appearance, a tied all-time record for NASCAR post-season. He effectively was the last remaining driver to have earned a spot in the 'first and last' playoffs dating from 2004 to 2021. Announced he would switch to 23XI Racing in 2022 and bring sponsor Monster Energy with him.
Statchat: Earned first win in a Toyota, becoming the first driver to have won in a Chevrolet, a Dodge, a Ford, and a Toyota in NASCAR history. His win came at Kansas Speedway and was only the second all-time for team co-owners Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan
Kurt Busch Career Stats
Kurt Busch's legacy has been one of talent and longevity for many years. It is without a doubt that his recent win in the #45 Toyota Next-Gen will solidify him as one of the greatest stock car drivers of all-time.