It’s not if, but when for Kyle Busch

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 15: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, walks through the garage area following practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 15, 2019 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

At this point, NASCAR history properly teed-up, Kyle Busch is simply ready to buckle up, fire up, and hopefully raise a 200th trophy up.

The 33-year old has combined to win 199 times in NASCAR’s three national series – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series. The historic mark could come with a win either in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity race at California’s Auto Club Speedway or Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Or perhaps. … he even eclipses the milestone all in one weekend winning back-to-back races and becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to score 201 victories in the three combined series.

Fans and historians are eager to see if and when he sets the mark. Busch figures he’s more ready than anyone to see where his fortunes take him. But then again, he stressed Friday, his desire to win races has little to do with historical numbers and everything to do with personal high expectations.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Busch said of being on the verge of win No. 200 this weekend. “Just come out here and we’re entered in both races. We come out here and try to do the best we can to win. If we win on Saturday and that’s win 200, then so be it. It is what it is.”

And, he added, “If it happens on Saturday, maybe a hat or something in Victory Lane. Other than that, we go onto the next one. There’s not going to be much celebration around it because it’s just going to be focused on the next race which is going to be the next day.”

Certainly Busch’s record at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway – located a little more than three hours from his Las Vegas hometown – should provide plenty of confidence and optimism.

Busch has three Monster Energy Series wins at the track – including his very first series win in 2005. He has a record six Xfinity Series wins too – including three consecutive from 2010-11. And he is a perfect two-for-two in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the track too, even though the Trucks aren’t racing this weekend. Busch’s 11 combined national series victories at Auto Club Speedway make him the winningest driver at the facility and that’s not a bad stat to carry into a potentially sport-changing race.

And his 200 wins are as varied as his work at this particular track. He has 52 Monster Energy Series wins (11th-most all-time) and his 94 Xfinity wins and 53 Truck Series victories are most ever in those respective series. He won both the Xfinity and Cup race just last week in Phoenix. He swept the two series at Auto Club Speedway in 2013.

His competitors do not doubt that Busch may score win 200 this weekend. And at the young age of 33, with a multi-win pace established for the past 15 years, Busch will likely add many MANY more victories – and probably more championships – to his future NASCAR Hall of Fame trophy total.

“I hate to see Kyle Busch win as much as anybody does,” 2017 Auto Club Speedway winner Kyle Larson said with a laugh.

“It’s just amazing to see how good he is in all types of series and race cars and his win percentages are unbelievable even with all the restrictions that you have now with the amount of races you can run.

“He still wins just as much, if not more. For him to be as good as he is at every race track is pretty spectacular. You can look at most drivers and pinpoint their best race tracks, and I don’t know if you can really do that with Kyle Busch.

“Every race track is his best race track.”

As reverent as Busch has been regarding his win total and where it places him historically in the sport, he is quick to remind that he just wants to win. Period. The headlines, record books and buzz about the accomplishment is not what has motivated him – even though he conceded trackside Friday afternoon, it will be a special moment to claim 200.

“Certainly, I have had a few of my friends and stuff send me some links of things they saw this week of some articles and things,” Busch said. “I read what [200 Cup race winner] Richard [Petty] said the other day which was cool. He talked about how if I was thrown back in their era with [David] Pearson and Petty, I could compete with those guys.

“That’s very respectful and I appreciate that. I am honored he said that. I feel I’d like to think the same way that I could do it. It doesn’t matter. It’s a different time and place. Overall, excited to just continue on and keep winning.”

Greg Engle