NASCAR star Kyle Busch and relative unknown Brian Ickler share a friendship and a ride.

The two are splitting the driving chores in the No. 51 Toyota that is leading the owner points in the Camping World Truck Series.

The 23-year-old Ickler is the hand-picked co-driver for team owner Billy Ballew, chosen by his 24-year-old teammate and driving buddy.

“It was all Kyle,” Ickler said about getting the truck ride. “We went down and raced the Snowball Derby in Kyle’s Late Model and became closer friends. He talked about how he would like to help me move up the ladder more and drive some more.

“Then he texted me one day and told me he got me in his 51 truck when he’s not driving it. It was mostly Kyle.”

The deal has worked out well for all concerned.


Busch has managed to drive in seven of the 10 truck races so far this year, with two wins and three runner-up finishes. Ickler, who drives Ballew’s No. 15 entry when he’s not in the 51, has added a fifth-place finish in three starts in the top truck and had a career-best third two weeks ago at Michigan in the 15.

Three-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., driving for Kevin Harvick Inc., leads the driver standings, but the combination of Busch and Ickler has a 37-point lead over the No. 33 Chevrolet truck in the owner standings.

Ickler will be back in the 51 this week, racing Saturday night at Memphis Motorsports Park. He said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure when he replaces Busch, who also races in Sprint Cup and Nationwide and will be busy driving in both those series this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Once you start trying to compare yourself to Kyle Busch … that’s pretty much impossible,” Ickler said. “I really think it’s an advantage because Kyle has run in the truck and the truck has run up front. It’s a huge boost for my confidence to know it can be done.

“Every change we make on the truck, you can text or ask Kyle what he thinks about it and he can tell you what he would do,” Ickler added.

Busch is Ickler’s biggest booster, doing everything he can to make sure Ickler has the right opportunities and equipment to make a name for himself. Besides running the truck and Busch’s Late Model car, the San Diego native is racing a part-time schedule in ARCA and NASCAR’s Camping World East Series, where he has one win already this year.

“He’s got a plateful this year,” Busch said. “We took him out of the full (Camping World East) schedule because we wanted him to work around and get some different races under his belt. We’re trying to get him seat time now. I believe in him and, hopefully, if he carries himself this year in that truck, top-10s, top-fives, can contend up front, then, hopefully, next year he’ll be a full-timer.”

Ballew is pleased with the co-driving arrangement, too.

“Kyle serves as a mentor but also they are good friends and have raced together in other series,” the owner said. “They have a great relationship – Kyle is a great mentor to Brian on tracks he hasn’t been to before. Both Kyle and Brian share the same setups and are comfortable doing so. Their driving techniques are similar and competitive spirit is the same.”

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