LAS VEGAS — When Kyle Busch emerged from his No. 8 Chevrolet following his victory last Sunday at Fontana, he was greeted with … cheers?
The applause continued as Busch did his signature bow, and the feeling is new for him.
Busch has long played the NASCAR villain, but the two-time Cup Series champion is finding that fans are starting to come around to him.
“To (win) last week at California and to hear the (cheers) afterwards was really cool,” Busch said. “It’s awesome to me to hear a little bit of a changing of the guard, which is fun. Hopefully it keeps going.”
His next opportunity is Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch qualified fifth with a speed of 184.489 mph.
LVMS is his hometown track, but even here, Busch, a Las Vegas native, hasn’t been fully embraced.
In many ways, he has enjoyed being the bad guy. To suddenly become a fan favorite might take some getting used to.
“All my stuff is black for a reason,” Busch said. “It’s fun to always kind of play it up with the fans and stuff like that. My fans especially are awesome. I’ve got a lot that I wouldn’t say that I know personally, but whenever you see them at venues or at autograph sessions or KBM when we do Fan Day, you recognize these folks and you’ve seen them for 10 or 15 years.”
“It’s interesting just to continue to build off of that with new fans. People get a different read on me as I’m getting older and getting wiser and all those great things. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean I’m slowing down, though.”
He isn’t doing that, considering he won at Fontana in his just second start for Richard Childress Racing. That gave him a NASCAR-record 19 consecutive seasons with at least one Cup Series victory, and he and brother Kurt Busch moved into first place with 95 combined wins for siblings.
Kyle Busch, who won Friday’s Truck series race at Las Vegas, is the all-time leader with 226 victories in all three NASCAR series.
Now he’s trying to add just his second Cup victory at Las Vegas. His other win came in 2009.
Busch has more on his mind than just winning. His 7-year-old son, Brexton, was scheduled to make his West Coast Bandolero debut at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 3/8-mile track both Busch brothers raced on as youngsters.
“It’ll be fun to focus on the racing here at the big track and also Brexton tonight at the Bullring,” Kyle Busch said Saturday. “I’m excited to get over there and see what he’s got tonight.”