Kyle Busch bounty hunt picks up Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson

by Justin Nguyen

Kyle Busch is the winningest driver in NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series history with fifty-seven wins in NASCAR’s third national series. As a two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion who also holds the most victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he has garnered a rather negative reputation among fans for his participation and constant winning in what many view as developmental tiers. Despite various rule changes to deter Cup driver participation, including limiting such competitors to just five Xfinity and Truck races apiece annually, Busch continues to visit Victory Lane.

After Busch won his seventh straight Truck race last Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, fellow Cup driver Kevin Harvick decided to capitalise on his domination by offering a $50,000 bounty for any full-time Cup racer to claim by beating Busch in a Truck race. Gander RV owner Marcus Lemonis sweetened the pot by throwing in another $50,000 to make it a $100,000 grand prize.

“I like this so let’s make this fun,” Harvick tweeted. “I’ll put up a $50,000 bounty for any full time cup driver who races a truck and can beat @KyleBusch in his next 4 races.”

On Thursday, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson announced they have allied with GMS Racing to run the Truck races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, respectively, in their efforts to win the bounty.

Elliott, a Georgia native, finished fifth in his lone Truck start at Atlanta in 2017 with GMS. At the Cup level, he has three top-ten finishes in four starts, including a fifth-place run in the 2017 event.

Although Larson only has three top tens at Homestead in the Cup Series, he has enjoyed great success on the track. Traditionally running along the high line, his 325 career laps led are third most among active Cup drivers behind Busch and Harvick and lead the Cup Series since 2016. In three Truck starts at Homestead, he has led 220 laps with a pole and two top fives, while he also scored a victory there in the Xfinity Series in 2015.

Incidentally, Larson is partly responsible for the creation of the bounty. Shortly after Busch’s Las Vegas win, Larson tweeted a set of cherry emojis, alluding to Cup drivers “cherry picking” lower series races to run. Harvick eventually quipped it was a “good time for you to build some trucks!”, prompting him to form the bounty. Lemonis, a longtime NASCAR partner whose businesses have sponsored the Truck Series since 2009, chimed in to match Harvick’s bounty.

Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Although Elliott and Larson are the only drivers to have confirmed their bounty hunting campaigns as of Thursday, others have joked about potentially doing the same. Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Denny Hamlin, who raced for Busch’s Kyle Busch Motorsports team sporadically from 2011 to 2013, remarked Busch would “charge me about 150k to run”, while Timmy Hill, owner of Hill Motorsports and racing in Cup for MBM Motorsports, tweeted he now “some more incentive these next few truck races”. Austin Dillon has also expressed interest, tweeting he was “working on it” when asked if he would participate.

Despite the media attention, Busch has voiced his disdain for the bounty program. In a Thursday interview with Barstool SportsRubbin’ is Racing podcast, he explained a Truck ride would cost $140,000, effectively making it a “losing proposition” even if a Cup driver attempted the challenge in a KBM truck.

In addition to Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Homestead, Busch’s 2020 Truck schedule includes dates at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

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