Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch shows up at Auto Club Speedway for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) not only as defending race winner, but also a competitor looking to get back on track early in the 2020 season.
He’s still looking for his first top-10 finish of the season and is ranked 27th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after two races. He finished 34th with an engine issue in the season-opening Daytona 500 and was 15th last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with only 14 laps out front to date (all at Daytona).
A California race, however, may be exactly what Busch needs to re-set his season and sights on becoming the first back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series champion since Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson won a record five straight titles from 2006-2010.
All that starts with winning a race, however. And the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is certainly a strong favorite on this weekend’s two-miler outside Los Angeles, where he has four career wins. In just the last eight years he’s won three times (2013, ‘14, ‘19), finished runner-up (2012) and earned a pair of third-place (2011, ‘18) showings. Busch has seven top-10 finishes in that eight-year span and tallied nearly 70 percent of his career laps led total at the track (564 of 807 laps).
Last year’s Auto Club Speedway win was significant and historical – his 200th among the three NASCAR national series – NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. And this track contributed mightily to that big total, considering Busch has a record six Xfinity Series wins and two Gander Trucks wins in addition to his four NASCAR Cup Series trophies at Auto Club Speedway.
The “West Coast Swing” – as this three-week race journey at Las Vegas, Auto Club Speedway and Phoenix Raceway is referred to – has typically been a dependable trophy haul for the Las Vegas native. He is ranked second – only to six-time race winner Jimmie Johnson – in driver rating (114.0), average running position (8.144) and laps led (807) at Auto Club Speedway.
And perhaps if nothing else, this venue remains a sentimental favorite for Busch because he scored the first of his 56 career NASCAR Cup Series wins there in 2005.