The Kyle Busch that won 100 NASCAR national series races at a record clip largely disappeared in 2012. He fashioned just one victory overall and missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.
News flash: He’s back. And how.
Busch posted his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the year in Texas to extend his string of five top-five finishes and advance to third in the standings just 18 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Since finishing 23rd in Phoenix, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has gone fourth, second, first, fifth and first. Over that five-race span, Busch has led 435 laps – or an average of 87 per race.
Busch needs to lead just 174 laps to enter an exclusive 25,000 laps-led club that currently boasts only five competitors – all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They are Richard Petty, the all-time lap leader with more than 50,000, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison and David Pearson.
Adding an exclamation point in the Lone Star State, Busch won his series-record fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series event in the first six races of the season.
Two victories would have put Busch in last year’s Chase and might well guarantee the Nevada driver a spot in 2013. But he’s taking nothing for granted.
“We’ve still got some work to do to get better at some of the tracks that we did struggle at last year, and we know that,” he said, pointing to Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
The 1.5-mile track, resurfaced last summer, has been a speed bump, of sorts, for Busch.
He’s without a NASCAR Sprint Cup victory or a top-five finish in 11 starts at Kansas Speedway, where Busch’s best performance is a seventh in 2006. Busch also has finished off the lead lap in five races – a rarity.
Statistics support Busch’s Kansas struggles. His Driver Rating is – by his standards – an anemic 81.8, 17th among current drivers. Busch’s average Kansas finish is 21.0 He finished 31st in last fall’s Chase race, eliminated by an accident after 181 laps.
Busch is aware of the challenge.
“That’s going to be a battle for us just making sure we’ve got a good handling car and one that I can drive and push hard and make speed of because that asphalt is pretty new there,” he said.
Busch will do double-duty at Kansas stepping into his own No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra for Saturday’s SFP 250.