Christopher Bell shocked the NASCAR world by winning Sunday's Cup Series race on the Daytona Road Course, but it raised an important question in the process. With Bell picking up his first Cup Series win with crew chief Adam Stevens, one has to wonder if Kyle Busch made a mistake by splitting with his championship winning crew chief.
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Kyle Busch and Adam Stevens split up during the offeseason due to disagreements over how to move the Joe Gibbs Racing team forward, which prompted the two-time time champion to tap Ben Beshore as his new crew chief. The pairing seemed to be the right decision after Kyle Busch won the Busch Clash during Speedweeks, but he has struggled since then.
“I asked Adam for a couple changes to be made over the offseason, and he didn’t agree with my philosophy on those changes,” Busch sid during an interview prior to the season. “So he said, you know what, I’m going to do something different and let you do something different and we’ll see what happens.'”
Why is Kyle Busch off to a slow start?
Unfortunatley for Kyle Busch, his struggles started in the season-opening Daytona 500, where he finished 14th after getting caught up in a last-lap incident. After that dissapointing finish, Kyle Busch came home 35th on the Daytona Road Course, leaving him 17th in the points standings. He is the lowest Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the standings after two races this season.
Compare that to Christopher Bell, a second-year Cup driver who finished 16th in the Daytona 500 after leading 32 laps, and you start to see a difference. Bell followed that up with the first NASCAR Cup Series win of his career, cementing himself as one of the sport's top young drivers. He is fifth in the points standings after two races.
Whether Bell's fast start is a direct result of Adam Stevens' experience as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief remains to be seen, but the results are interesting given that Kyle Busch parted ways with most of his team after the 2020 season. The same team Kyle Busch struggled with in 2020 is the same group that has Bell fifth in the standings.
Then again, NASCAR's new schedule means that the "real" start of the season will commence this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one of the toughest 1.5-mile tracks on the circuit. These tracks are the bread and butter of NASCAR and will go a long way toward showing who has a team capable of winning a championship.
Bell has finished well at Homestead in the past, making this another track he could do well at. Of course, he will have a bit of a learning curve now that two wild-card races are out of the way, but he is in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment with a champonship-winning crew chief.
As for Kyle Busch, he has multiple wins at the next four tracks on the circuit and could easily turn around his luck at one of them. With a crew chief like Ben Beshore, whom Kyle Busch has won with in the past at the Xfinity Series level, it could only be a matter of time before he reaches victory lane again.
Will he be as succesful as Christopher Bell, though? While a lot of NASCAR fans might answer with a resounding yes, Stevens seems to be the X-factor in the equation. It raises the question: Could Kyle Busch have won his two championships without the help of Adam Stevens.
That's not to take a shot at Kyle Busch, especially with what he was able to accomplish with various crew chiefs. But there seemed to be soemthing special about the pairing of Busch and Stevens. It was almost like they were each other's missing link.
And now that link is gone. It begs the question of whether Kyle Busch made a mistake by getting rid of Stevens and most of his No. 18 team. The answer seems to be yes at the moment.