Kyle Busch knows what it’s like to be on a hot streak. He’s on one now; he’s been on them before. He expects to be on more in the future.
“I think momentum is momentum,” said Busch, who goes for his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup victory Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. “We’ve been really, really strong.”
That’s probably an understatement. Busch has not only won two straight Cup races (Martinsville and Texas), but he had a four-race unbeaten streak in NASCAR national series competition broken when he finished a close second to protege Erik Jones in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Bristol.
These are golden days for Busch, who won his first Cup championship last season and is considered perhaps NASCAR’s most skillful driver.
This is my passion, my drive, my fire.
It was quite a year for Busch, who broke a leg and foot in the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona. He would miss the first 11 Cup races of the season. When he returned, he took a few races to get his bearings – it’s not easy driving a race car with a recently mended foot and leg – before going on one of his rolls. He won four of five races during one stretch and then clinched the title by winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“For missing what I missed last year and being out of the race car as long as I was, I think I’ve certainly given fact to the matter that I love racing and that’s what I’m all about,” said Busch, who starts fifth Sunday. “When I was laid up and thinking about whether I wanted to come back or whether I didn’t, there were never any thoughts that crossed my mind that I did not want to come back.
“This is what it’s all about for me. This is my passion, my drive, my fire.”
Busch won the 2015 Cup championship despite missing the first 11 races due to injuries.
Busch is part of a Joe Gibbs Racing team that will occupy four of the first five positions Sunday (Carl Edwards is on the pole; Matt Kenseth is also on the front row and Denny Hamlin starts fourth). Busch has been the beneficiary of some pretty special synergy among his teammates. Edwards, for one, is taking advantage of Busch’s success. But there’s also Hamlin, who won the Daytona 500. Kenseth, who hasn’t won this year, has 36 career victories and is a former champion.
“Understanding the setups and driving styles and being able to talk to people about how they approach the race is definitely helpful,” said Edwards. “But everyone does things differently. The coolest part for me is to see that this can be done right now out of this shop with these cars and (Toyota Racing Development) engines. That’s the best thing you can have is someone out there setting the bar. That’s great.”
4 Joe Gibbs Racing drivers starting in top 5 Sunday
Busch, who has five career victories at Bristol, has won at every track on the current Cup circuit except Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. He said as he continues to win, he continues to grow as a driver.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything I’m doing differently (than in the past),” he said. “Certainly, I think circumstances are going our way a little bit more. Why, I’m not sure. Overall, there are still some things still for me to learn over the years that maybe I’m not quite as good at that I could be better at. Charlotte or Kansas, for instance.
“But I feel like we can go each and every week and have a legitimate chance to win, which is probably the first time in my career that I’ve had that. So it’s pretty good.”