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Former KBM Driver Bubba Wallace Reveals Kyle Busch’s True Colors: “May Come Off as Being…an A**hole”

Published 10/02/2023, 1:08 AM EDT

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Amid the furor and intensity of the playoffs, a piece of bigger news left the racing community thunderstruck. The most successful Truck Series team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, has been purchased by Spire Motorsports. Recently, team owner Kyle Busch shared his thoughts and feelings about competing against his KBM mentees in the Cup Series. Interestingly, current playoff contender Bubba Wallace is perhaps the proudest and the loudest of them all.

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In the pre-race interview at the Talladega Superspeedway, the #23 Camry driver opened up on the modus operandi employed by Busch in the early days of his career. And it was questionable, to say the least.

Wallace was accustomed to brutal words and tall tasks in Kyle Busch’s reign


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Bubba Wallace began his NASCAR career in 2013 under the guidance of Cup champion Kyle Busch. The #54 and the #34 KBM trucks driven by Wallace diligently followed Busch’s #51 to master the tricks of the trade. It helped him defeat the versatile Kyle Larson at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in his second year with Busch. However, the improved performance came at a cost. Busch had unconventional techniques of mentorship that often left Wallace flabbergasted.

Speaking to NASCAR journalist Greg Engle, Wallace recalled, I remember in 2013 racing every weekend and didn’t matter where we at, he was fast, and we were just trying to replicate that. He would talk to you, and he was like just do this, and you were like what? I’m trying to figure it out. It clicked about halfway through 2014.”


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He narrated a particularly onerous conversation at the end of his first year regarding his performance at Martinsville Speedway. I remember after Martinsville in 2013, it was the off-season, he sat me down and said if you didn’t win Martinsville, you were out. Simple as that.” Although he was affronted by an unrealistic expectation, he must have been relieved that he passed the test. Wallace was aware that Busch’s ultimate goal was to urge him toward a better performance, as discouraging as it was.

He continued,I think just – we know how Kyle is – but you can take and appreciate that – of just trying to push to be the best. It may come off as being a jerk or being an asshole sometimes, but I understand what he’s trying to go for.”

Kyle Busch might have wanted Bubba Wallace to conquer a racetrack but the student wished to vanquish the tutor himself.

Watch this story: Kyle Busch’s Heartfelt Farewell to KBM

Bubba Wallace competed with Kyle Busch while the KBM owner raced against himself

By the time Bubba Wallace started competing as a full-time driver, Kyle Buch had amassed 104 wins in the three NASCAR series, of which, 29 came riding his truck. The year Bubba Wallace raced for KBM, Busch himself drove for the team in his #51 Toyota. As Wallace attempted to gain his footing at the national level, Kyle Busch collected 5 more wins that year. He was the best of the best and the only person against whom Wallace aimed to gauge his skills.


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Reflecting on that time, Wallace admitted, “Kyle is a heck of a racer and gave me a heck of an opportunity … It was tough racing against him. He was the one to beat.” And that drive simultaneously enhanced his performance and standing. He continued, “The #54 started getting talked about almost as much as Kyle. I think once you figured it out, it was fun to show up to the race track and know you were going to run top 3, top 2. It was going to be the #51 and the #54.”

A decade later, the 23XI Racing driver does not regret those earlier lessons. Bubba Wallace might not have approved of the process but he does not deny the transformational outcome. Wallace observed, I try to not be as sarcastic, but just from the racing standpoint and absolutely going out and being a dog, Kyle taught me a lot about that, so it is pretty cool.”


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In his concluding remarks, Bubba Wallace made an extremely pertinent observation about the veteran racer. At the end of the day, he’s helping a lot of people but he’s racing for himself and wants to be the absolute best. If you can learn from that and get past the harshness of that and try to take some of those traits, I think that helps you along the way and that is what I’ve done.”

“One of the Best”: Bubba Wallace Rallies the Support of NASCAR Insiders After Irrefutable Brilliance Leading to Talladega

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Written by:

Parika Singh


One take at a time

Parika Singh is a NASCAR writer at EssentiallySports. Her combined love for writing and motorsports drew her to the world of sports journalism, where she fell in love with the thrill, unpredictability, and charisma of covering racers and race tracks. She especially looks out for the #5 Chevrolet of Kyle 'Wheelman' Larson, because of whom, she holds a soft spot for the 2021 season where he emerged as champion.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal