HOMESTEAD, Fla – Kyle Busch came into the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season honestly pissed. The new racing package that was set forth wasn’t racing according to the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. For most of the year, he would talk about his displeasures with this racing package.
It was in his head.
Then, he decided to stop talking. Why complain about something that wasn’t going to change. Plus, for all of his disliking of it, he was thriving. Despite his hatred for the package, Busch started off hot. He had five top three finishes, two of which being wins, in the first six races to 2019. His worst finish at that point?
He’d rattle off 11 consecutive top 10 finishes to start the campaign off with and 15 in his first 16 tries. Busch, was a true championship favorite. But, the second half of the season didn’t go exactly to plan.
Busch’s last win came on June 2. He’d have three top five finishes over his next 11 starts from Chicagoland through Las Vegas. In fact, from Chicagoland through Texas, the penultimate race of the Round of 8, Busch had zero wins and only five top five’s in 18 starts.
He was no longer a championship favorite. But, my how wrong were we?
Busch, finished runner-up in Phoenix to make the Championship 4 for the fifth straight year. The problem was, that winless streak of 21 races was a dark cloud hanging over his head.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 was going to be won by one of the Championship 4 drivers. Since this format was adopted in 2014, it’s been won by a playoff eligible driver every year. It was going to happen on Sunday.
The three Busch was going against for the championship had each won a race in the Round of 8 and had four wins apiece since Busch’s last trip to victory lane. See the issue?
Despite that, Busch wasn’t panicking. He’s been here before. Remember 2015?
Busch, was injured in a frightening season opening crash in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona. He’d miss the first 11 races of the season. Due to NASCAR rules though, as long as you get a waiver, which Busch did, finish in the to 30 of the regular season points standings and can can get a win, you’d be playoff eligible.
Busch, had a waiver in hand, a top 30 finish in the standings and not one, but four wins. The problem then was, once he got his fourth win, he went into a mini slump. Then, he got hot in the end when it mattered the most.
Busch, came into Homestead that year riding a 15 race winless streak. He had four wins, none of which in the playoffs. This year, he had a 21 race winless streak, four wins and no playoff victories.
Like 2015, Busch would prevail on Sunday en route to his second career championship. Now, do we have to rank him up there as a generational driver?
I think so. Busch likely does too.
He knows his stats and he’s not exactly thrilled with them. Just on Thursday, Busch said that winning only one championship would “suck.” He also said that making five straight Final Four’s is nice, but if you only have one title in that time frame, then that would be demoralizing.
Well, he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. He has two championships in five years. He’s also the only driver to win multiple titles in this new era. He and Kevin Harvick each have five final round appearances in six tries.
Furthermore, he’s scored six playoff wins and 22 overall wins since 2016. Only Martin Truex Jr. with nine and 23 respectively have more. Busch’s 56 Cup wins rank him ninth on the all-time wins list already.
Only Richard Petty (200), David Pearson (105), Jeff Gordon (93), Bobby Allison (84), Darrell Waltrip (84), Jimmie Johnson (83), Cale Yarborough (83) and Dale Earnhardt (76) have more. That’s an elite list.
Busch, is on pace to pass some of them. He’s only 34 years old. 40 of his 56 wins all came in the 2010’s, most among all drivers. He’s had at least four wins in six of the last seven season. He’s averaging five wins per season over the last five years. If he continues that on for another five years, when he’s 39, Busch would have scored over 80 wins. On this pace, he’ll pace Earnhardt before he hits 40. Then, he’s only 3-5 wins shy of passing Allison, Waltrip and Yarborough. Then, it depends on how Johnson closes out his career on if Busch passes him.
Johnson, is a generational driver with seven championships, all from 2006 through 2016. How many of those did he keep away from Busch?
Now that Busch has two in arguably the most difficult era in NASCAR to win titles, he has to enter the conversation.