“Bring it on,” said Kyle Busch. Following Busch’s 57th career NASCAR Truck Series victory in their last race of the season at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR world had its annual groaning about the NASCAR Cup Series driver winning in the lower ranks.
I get the aesthetics of it. Busch, a now two-time Cup Series champion, going down two levels of competition and winning against a bunch of up and coming drivers. Busch, makes it look easy. He led 108 of the 134 laps in the Strat 200 en route to his seventh straight victory in the series.
So, instead of watching people complain all over social media, Kevin Harvick took matters into his own hands. Harvick, offered a $50k bounty to whomever could beat Busch head-to-head in his remaining four Truck Series starts this season.
There were only a couple of conditions –
A. Be a full time Cup driver
B. You can’t purposely wreck Busch to win
Following that, Marcos Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV and Outdoors, offered to match Harvick’s bounty to make the pot $100k to win.
Busch, initially questioned the motive out of fear he would intentionally get wrecked and why any one would take this on. He said it costs nearly $150k to put a Truck program together for one race. To win $100k but spend $150k to attempt to do so doesn’t make much sense.
Well, GMS Racing took the bait.
They’ll enter Chase Elliott in Saturday’s race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Kyle Larson a week later at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch, said to bring it on.
“It’s all good,” said the all-time Truck Series winner. “I think it’s going to be interesting, exciting, whatever you want to term it. I guess Cup drivers in the truck series do sell tickets. You know, take that for what it’s worth. I think it’s a unique opportunity for more attention on the series, which is good. Maybe if more drivers had more teams than had rides, there would be something else there besides just myself.
“It’s just brought a whole new chatter to the Truck Series. Whether that’s excitement or just chatter, I’m not sure which. I think we’ll see when we get to Atlanta what the grandstands look like and how the race goes.”
First up is Busch vs. the field in Atlanta which includes Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek and Brennan Poole against him for the bounty. The hometrack of the Georgia native Elliott, is doing a lot to promote this. SMI and the track announced on Friday a way for fans to contribute $5 to the charities of Elliott, Busch or Harvick through ticket purchases.
Fans who purchase a ticket to the March 14 NASCAR doubleheader – which includes the truck series race (1:30 p.m. on FS1) and a Xfinity Series race (4:00 p.m. on FS1) – can choose the driver and driver foundations that will benefit.
If additional challengers emerge, the drivers and their respective charities will also become eligible.
Fans can ensure their ticket purchase helps the driver charity of their choice by purchasing through the AMS ticket office (877-9-AMS-TIX) and stating the driver and foundation of choice or by going to https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/bounty/ and choosing their preferred driver. Tickets for the Saturday NASCAR Doubleheader – which includes the Georgia 200 bounty challenge race – are free for children 12 and under.
“The anticipation for this race and the buzz around this bounty is growing every day,” said SMI CEO Marcus Smith in a press release. “Where the drivers saw a chance to inject more fun and excitement into this race, we see a chance to step it up even more and help some people in need through some very worthy driver charities.”
Elliott, has made one career Truck Series start in Atlanta, a race that he finished fifth in during the 2017 season. Busch, actually finished 26th that day.
Nemechek, won this race in 2016 and was 29th in 2017. He hasn’t raced a truck on the 1.5-mile track since. Poole, has made one start in a truck at Atlanta which came last year. He finished 13th.
Then, it’s to Homestead against as of now Larson. That’s a place that Busch says is the one where he can be beat.
“I don’t remember who I told, but once Harvick kind of put the idea out there, I was like, ‘The guy who is really, really, really, gonna have a shot is Larson at Homestead,” Busch said.
Homestead, is considered one of Larson’s best tracks. He’s previously made three career Truck Series starts on the 1.5-mile track with finishes of 27th (2012), second (2014) and fourth (2016).
Busch, raced in two of those three races as he came home second in 2012 and fourth in 2014. That 2014 event was the last time he’s ran a Truck at Homestead too. He does have two wins there (2010, 2013) to go along with six top four finishes in eight tries.
Furthermore, Busch hasn’t actually lost a Truck race outright since May 2018 when he finished runner-up in Charlotte. He has 10 straight top two finishes and 11 in his last 12 tries.
If no Cup driver can beat Busch, then the $100k will be donated to the Bundle of Joy Fund, an organization founded by both Busch and his wife Samantha.