"If this year [in Nextel Cup] is one of them, it's going to be tough, but I'm not going to give up. I feel very fortunate to be at a place like Hendrick Motorsports and be a part of a family like the Hendrick family, with Ricky and Rick and Papa Joe, where I know they're going to take care of me. I feel like as long as I give 100 percent, I do my best, and I'm always honest with them, and I treat them right, then they'll always take care of me. That's the kind of family they are. If you take care of them and treat them the way you want to be treated, and do your best, then you'll always be taken care of. That's the kind of organization and the kind of family that you want to be associated with, because I don't care who you are, you're going to have bad years."
Kyle was on his way, scheduled for six Craftsman Truck races for Roush in 2001. NASCAR, however, changed the age requirement before Busch could run a scheduled full season in trucks, so he competed in ASA and waited. Mean- while, the 2003 season, when Kyle turned 18 in May, was designated as the next big step for the teenager.
A New Direction
The plan changed, though, early in 2003 when negotiations between Kyle and Roush Racing broke down. A sticking point was Roush's insistence on a long-term contract, one that would put Kyle in place for at least nine more years, to go with the almost two years he had already been with the organization.
That was one of the reasons for the call Busch had his sports attorney make to Hendrick Motorsports prior to the '03 season.
The primary reason for the call to Hendrick? "Basically to get out of my brother's shadow," says Kyle. "Everything that Kurt has ever driven, I've jumped into right after him and basically everybody said, 'Well, Kurt set up that, so obviously it's easy for [Kyle] just to go out and win.' The fact of the matter is I wanted to be able to be my own person and say to everybody that I can drive race cars just as well as Kurt can, even when he doesn't set them up. I guess it's a brotherly thing, that if one sibling makes it, then the other one is prone to make it as well. Sometimes you just have to prove yourself, though."
The Hendrick organization, meanwhile, welcomed Kyle with open arms while developing an ABC formula of ARCA races, then Busch, and eventually Cup.
"Kyle is one of the best young racers I've ever been around, and it's certainly exciting to have him on board," says Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "To say he has a bright future would be an understatement."
The precise timetable for Busch's move to Nextel Cup hasn't been determined, but tentatively it looks like 2006 will be the year for the move to the top series.
"They offered me a seven-race ARCA deal with a seven-race Busch deal for 2003, then a full-time Busch Series ride for 2004," says Kyle. "So that's the way that everything worked out. It's only for two years, last year and this year. After that, more than likely it's 100 percent that we're going to re-up."
Although his father had to act on behalf of the then 17-year-old Kyle, the decision to go to Hendrick Motorsports was Kyle's to make. Even Kurt was OK with the move, despite the fact that Kyle was turning his back on Kurt's employer.