And he might start to wonder when he’ll be back in the winner’s circle, not just there but anywhere.
When Busch climbed out of his Cup car after winning at the Brickyard last year, it was the exclamation point on one of the most dominant stretches he has ever had at one track: He had swept the Cup and Xfinity races in back-to-back seasons.
Since that Cup win last July, Busch has led at least one lap in 26 of 35 races for a total 1,350 laps … but he has zero wins to show for it, which makes his winless drought one of the most perplexing in modern NASCAR history.
Since the Chase era began in 2004, nobody has led as many laps as Busch has this year (953) in one complete season without winning at least one race. In 19 races in 2017, Busch has already led more laps than the four of the past six champions led in 36 races (including himself; he led 753 laps and won five races in 2015.)
So what is keeping Busch from Victory Lane? Nothing and everything at the same time.
He isn’t making the same mistake over and over again, so it’s not like there’s one fix he or his team could make to finally get another trophy.
This year, he has lost races because of bad timing (fuel mileage gamblers won at Phoenix and Charlotte), bad pit stops (a tire fell off of Busch’s car at Dover when he left the pit stall before it was screwed on) and bad performance (two speeding penalties last week).
Busch is 12th in points when victories are counted, so he’s well above the cutoff line and in no real danger of falling out of the 16-driver postseason. With the speed he has shown, he remains on the short list of championship contenders, winless streak or no winless streak. Still, a victory would be huge to give him momentum as the playoffs start – or at the very least remind him he can still do it. And Indy is a likely place for him to get one.
In 12 career races at the Brickyard, he has two wins, five top-5s and 10 top-10s. In the past six races there, he leads the series in points, with 30 more than the next closest driver. Put another way, his average finish is five spots better than the next best over that time.
At some point, all that has to pay off.