By: Ashley McCubbin
Kyle Busch Motorsports quickly built a reputation for winning races and championships, as evident by their success with Erik Jones and Christopher Bell. Though it has not been the same story the past two seasons.
Last year, they failed to make the post-season and while Busch visited victory lane this year himself, his young driver line-up of Christian Eckes, Chandler Smith, and Raphael Lessard have not repeated the feat. Though beyond that, they have struggled to put the finishes together on a consistent basis with several showings outside the top-10.
“Those guys need to clean that up a little bit and get themselves in contention of running in the top-eight,” Kyle Busch told POPULAR SPEED. “Don’t shoot for wins, let’s shoot for top-eights right now and we’ll work our way up to top-fives and get where we need to get first.”
Eckes certainly would like to have a win before the year is over, as he is currently one of the drivers in the playoffs chasing after a championship.
“The last four, five, six weeks, Christian Eckes has really come on strong and he had a few second-place finishes in a row – had a third in there,” Busch said. “Probably should have finished in the top-three at Gateway before we had a mechanical failure. He’s been having some good runs and that’s been very promising and he’s running in the top-three, top-five and getting some good finishes where he belongs. You do that enough times and the win is certainly going to come.”
While the speed has been there, consistency has been missing with Eckes only scoring four top-10’s in the last 10 events, but those were top-fives including three runner-ups.
“We’re trying to be better,” Eckes said. “I don’t think we are quite where we need to be just yet. We are really close, but to be better than the other teams we are just lacking a little bit. Hopefully, the next seven are really good for us. I feel like pretty much all seven we can go and win at. We will do the best we can and see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Lessard failed to score a top-10 in the first 10 races this season, but now has five in the last seven events, including a third at the Daytona International Speedway road course.
“Raphie (had struggled with the beginning of the season and not having a whole lot of practice going to all of these race tracks for the first time, but really his last three weeks have given us a vote of confidence where he’s run well,” Busch commented. “He ran well and ran strong at Darlington, probably or arguably our best KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) truck was his effort at Darlington. Then also had a good, decent run there at Gateway too being in the top-five, running fourth at a point. Looking for some strong runs here to finish out the season.”
Despite lacking in some areas, that hasn’t derailed the confidence of the young team, with Eckes having all the belief in KBM to lead him to his first career championship.
“Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) has been extremely good at winning championships pretty much the last 10 years,” he commented. “I have some experience as well fighting for an owner’s championship with him last year. It’s been a blast to work with him so far, and we have been close and have been running well at time. We just have to put it together for the next seven and be perfect.”