HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Two years ago, Kyle Busch completed an epic comeback from injury with a walk-off win to secure his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship during the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Now, he wants to add a second title to his list of career accomplishments during Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m., NBC, MRN, SiriusXM).
It would seem that Busch enters the weekend as one of the favorites to secure the crown, as his stats rival the best among the Championship 4 when it comes to season-long performance. He has five wins, 13 top-fives, 21 top-10s and a series-leading eight poles in 35 races.
But Busch doesn’t enter the final race of the year with as much momentum as he’d like.
He was the first of the Championship 4 to be guaranteed a spot in the finale after a thrilling last-lap pass for the win at Martinsville Speedway last month, but Busch endured sub-par (by his standards) runs of 19th and seventh at Texas and Phoenix over the past two weeks.
The good news was that he was already locked into the final four, so counting points wasn’t an issue for the last two-thirds of the Round of 8.
“Looking at our last two races, the good thing for us was seeing that we had speed,” said Busch following last weekend’s race at Phoenix. “Unfortunately we had a flat before we even took off in Texas and started the race essentially two laps down, and then we were able to finally come back, but the damage to our car was too much to overcome there with restarting in the pack and with the field and with the fast guys. We just didn’t have the speed to keep up with them, but we were fast by ourselves all alone.”
“At Phoenix, we just missed it for some reason. I thought we were really good in practice, and then in the race we weren’t even close. I’m not sure what happened, but overall it was nice to not have to worry about (points) too much. (At Phoenix) I was like, ‘Man, we are falling back, falling back, falling back.’ Like if we had been in position to win, we were certainly not doing a good job of executing, and then we were able to come back and get a seventh. It really didn’t matter, though, because we were through and that was definitely a relief.”
Busch is hoping to score his second-career Homestead win come Sunday. His first win in South Florida won him the title two years ago.
Crew chief Adam Stevens recalled the night as one where each puzzle piece fell into place perfectly for them near the end of the race. Busch never fell outside the top-10 and was in position to capture the crown even before a final restart with seven to go afforded them a chance to win outright.
“2015 was a special year culminated by a special weekend,” Stevens said. “The Homestead race was interesting.”
“I think the thing I remember most is the feeling of that caution coming out, and knowing we were in position before the caution came out with 10 or 12 to go to win the championship … but beating the No. 4 (Harvick) off of pit road and getting the jump on the No. 2 (Keselowski) and taking the lead … that feeling of taking the lead after the restart with eight or nine laps to go is something I won’t forget. I hope I get to have that feeling again Sunday.”
For the driver, he simply wants to find his way back to the top of the heap in the premier series.
“I’m just really anxious, I guess, to race for a championship again and excited about being able to go to Homestead with a shot at it,” Busch said. “It’s going to be a tough race. All the Championship Four are going to be fast. (They are) every single time we go down there. That’s just kind of the way this business is when it comes down to the end of the season.”
“The cream will always rise, and those guys will always be a part of the race and be a factor. We just hope we’re the ones that come out on top.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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