Is it possible for Kyle Busch to be the written-off, overlooked, flying-under-the-radar driver who could just squeeze into the championship race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in Homestead, Fla.?
Sounds improbable, but it’s certainly possible.
Busch is no stranger to making headlines on and off the track and is no stranger to winning: He has 139 wins in NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.
The Chase format – and the Cup championship that comes with winning it – has been a difficult hurdle for Busch, 29, to surpass in his career, however.
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With only one victory this season and not nearly as dominant on the track as he has been in previous seasons, this year may be seem an unlikely one for Busch to be in the title hunt, but so far, so good.
“It certainly feels good that we’re heading in the right direction at the right time of the year,” he said. “It’s all about peaking at the right time, and hopefully we haven’t peaked yet and we still have a ways to climb.
“I feel like we do, anyways. We haven’t won. There’s opportunity there. Again, just trying to get ourselves smarter each and every week about making the right decisions and unloading with the right set-ups in these cars.”
Even a subpar finish in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway should still be enough to allow Busch to be one of eight drivers to advance to Round 3 of the Chase.
A strong finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility, either.
Busch has one career win at the track (2008) and has finished fifth or better in three of his past five races there.
“If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race,” he said. “Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”
The performance by Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team during the first five races of the Chase has been the team’s most consistent five-race stretch this season.
It certainly comes at a good time, but it also comes with a lot of work.
It’s no secret the Toyotas have been down on horsepower this season in relation to their competitors, but Toyota Racing Development and JGR have invested great time and expense to close the gap as the season has progressed.
Only three drivers have scored more points in the Chase than Busch – Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.
Larson didn’t qualify for the Chase, and Logano and Harvick are the only drivers locked into the third round. That’s stout company.
“So far, we’re carrying our momentum through the Chase here, so it feels pretty good,” Busch said.
“It started at Chicago and Loudon and Dover – top 10s in each of those places and Kansas coming home with a top-five and then to Charlotte, one of my favorite places.”
Asked if he has a team that can put it all together at the right time to win the championship, Busch said there was only one way to find out.
“That’s to run these races,” he said. “Certainly, we want to, we need to, you know you have to, but there’s also anything that can happen in this sport.
“We’ve seen that time and time again over the years, where you don’t expect something to happen and then all of a sudden something does happen. So, just be ready for anything, especially at a place like Talladega this weekend.”