Kyle Busch picked the right time to win his first Chase race in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
Busch won the “championship” race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a win that secured the series title and cemented his place among the greats in the sport.
Now, Busch is looking to repeat and he’s the favorite with a series-leading four wins going into the Chase. Busch begins his title defense Sunday when the Chase opens at Chicagoland Speedway, and the thought is the floodgates might now be open for Busch.
After all, the dam burst a year ago when Busch finally won a Chase race and the championship. Maybe this will be the beginning of a run for Busch similar to that of Jimmie Johnson, who won five consecutive championships from 2006-10.
1 Chase win for Kyle Busch, last year’s championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway
“Certainly we’re hoping for that,” Busch said earlier this week. “But there’s a bunch of other guys out there who feel like they’re capable and ready to win championships as well. So we’re going to have to dial those guys out.
“Not necessarily championships will flow my way like they did for Johnson where he won five in a row. We’re going to have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure. But, right now, I feel like we’re obviously one of the top teams with Joe Gibbs Racing, and our affiliation with Toyota — we have great race cars, great engines. We certainly want to take our No. 18 M&M’s/Interstate Batteries Toyota to the winner’s circle.”
As stated, Busch has done that plenty in his career and this season. He has 38 career Cup wins, including four this season. He is a driver who can get hot and win races in bunches.
Busch put together back-to-back wins in early April when he won at Martinsville and then at Texas. Four weeks later, Busch won at Kansas Speedway for the first time in his career.
So there’s no question Busch is the driver to beat in this year’s Chase. The Chase format rewards drivers who win and get hot at the right time, as the race winner’s in each round automatically advance to the next.
It also rewards drivers who consistently finish near the front as at least one driver will advance each round on points.
Busch has done both exceedingly well this season. He has finished in the top-10 16 times, more than 60 percent of the races, and in the top-5 11 times, more than 40 percent of the races.
Personally, I expect Kyle to advance to the finals at least. TMS president Eddie Gossage
“I think what we’re seeing is the continued maturation of Kyle Busch,” Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. “He’s always been a winner, but it takes intensity and consistency to win the championship.
“Kyle is an emotional guy and I like that emotion that he carries with him. But you’ve got to know when to play it and when to swallow it. So Kyle has always had the physical skills, and now he’s got the mental skills to succeed. There’s every indication that he’ll succeed, and don’t be surprised to see him win the whole thing again.
“Personally, I expect Kyle to advance to the finals at least.”
Part of Busch’s growth in how he handles himself emotionally came from last season.
Busch, 31, was involved in a horrific wreck during the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, fracturing his right leg and left foot. That sidelined him for the first 11 races and he returned with a renewed passion and energy.
“Being hurt, being on the sidelines gave me a little different perspective of what life is outside of racing,” Busch said. “For me, there isn’t a whole lot outside of racing. I enjoyed every moment of it and it just gave me passion and drive to want to get back.”
Busch came back in dominant style and it’s carried over to this season. He would love to become a multi-time champion in the sport. Only 15 drivers have won multiple championships in the sport. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt are tied for most with seven, followed by Johnson with six.
Busch would like to join that exclusive fraternity before his racing days are over.
“I have noticed that there are a few guys who have won one championship, fewer who have won two, fewer who have won three,” Busch said. “So, yeah, I’d certainly like to be of one of those select groups who have that amount of success and certainly reaching and trying as hard as I can to get there.
“Knowing that I’m on one of the best teams and best equipment right now, this is sort of our time to shine. This is sort of my time to make sure I’m focused and doing everything I can possibly be doing to get the best finishes to transfer through the rounds.
“And make sure I’m ready to go and focused at Homestead to go out and win that race.”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400
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