Kyle Busch has never won a Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For his sanity’s sake, he hopes he can finally break through this weekend.
Saturday’s Bank of America 500 is the first race in the second round of NASCAR’s Chase. Busch, who has four victories this season, is among 12 drivers still in contention. As is the case in each of the first three rounds, a victory assures a driver of advancing through the Chase.
That can be nerve-wracking for Busch, whose best career points finish is fourth.
“Sometimes you can be pretty calm about the way the points go in the Chase,” said Busch. “But sometimes it’s frustrating. Your emotions can be all over the board.”
That’s why Busch would like to make his own kind of history at Charlotte. In 23 previous races at CMS, he has won two poles and has 10 top-five finishes, but hasn’t won either May’s Coca-Cola 600 or the fall race (although he has eight Xfinity and six Truck series victories at Charlotte).
By winning Saturday, he would go to the other two races in the second round – Kansas and Talladega – knowing a spot in the third round was locked up.
It would be a dismal year if we didn’t make it to Homestead.
The second round didn’t treat Busch kindly in 2014, when he went to Talladega seemingly in good shape to advance. He had five consecutive top-five finishes in the Chase to that point (but no victories) and needed only a 24th-place finish to advance to the third round.
But Busch, riding near the rear of the field early in the race, crashed and finished 41st, ending his championship hopes.
So, again, Busch doesn’t want to have to rely on making it on points this year. He also doesn’t want to depend on anything at Talladega, NASCAR’s fastest and perhaps most unpredictable track.
“Last year we thought we played it right,” said Busch. “We were the top total points scorer the first (five races), without a win. We went to Talladega and sure threw that away.
11 Sprint Cup races Busch missed this season because of injury
“So you would want to win at Charlotte or Kansas, either one, I don’t care. Just so you know you’re OK when you get to Talladega, because that’s the biggest crapshoot you have.”
Busch’s appearance in this season’s Chase is already one of the season’s most unlikely stories. After breaking his leg and foot in a wreck during the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona, Busch missed the first 11 Cup races.
To qualify for the postseason – which culminates with a championship-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November – Busch had to win at least once and climb into the top 30 in the standings in the season’s final 15 races. He took care of the victories – winning four times – and made it into the top 30 with one race to spare.
Busch still had work to do last week at Dover to make it into the second round. Entering the race 13th in the Chase standings, he made it inside the cut line by finishing second.
“This season has been a blessing so far,” said Busch. “But it won’t be if we don’t make it to Homestead. It would be a dismal year if we didn’t make it to Homestead.”
Petty stays with Ford
Richard Petty Motorsports announced an extension of its partnership with Ford for its two Cup teams and Xfinity team. RPM and Ford have been together since 2010.
Race Week Schedule
1:30-2:55 p.m.: Cup practice
3-3:55 p.m.: Xfinity practice
5:30-6:55 p.m.: Xfinity practice
7:20 p.m.: Cup qualifying
8:40 p.m.: Whelen Southern Modified Tour race
3:30-4:25 p.m.: Cup practice
4:45 p.m.: Xfinity qualifying
6:30-7:20 p.m.: Final Cup practice
8 p.m.: Drive For The Cure 300 (Xfinity race)
6:25 p.m.: Driver introductions
7 p.m: Bank of America 500