NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series 2015 champion Kyle Busch finished the 2017 season just one spot back of his second championship. To most, that would mean that they had an amazing run at the title and just fell a little short. To Kyle Busch, nothing short of another championship will suffice. Even so, the elite racer racked-up plenty of wins throughout his grueling campaign. He also gave the 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. all he could handle in the finale in Homestead, Miami.
Kyle “Rowdy” Busch found his way into victory lane five times last season. He also drove his way to the pole at another eight races. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t get to the back of Martin Truex Jr’s bumper in the Ford Ecoboost 400 to close out the year. As a result, he finished the winner-take-all event and second and will have to wait for another season to fight his way back to Miami.
Things might have been a little different if Kyle Busch and his team didn’t finally end their unlucky streak at Pocono Raceway on July 30th. In that race, the gritty driver captured the pole in qualifying and never looked back. Busch led 74 of the 160 laps turned and took his first checkered flag at the famed triangle in Longpond, PA. Until then, the Joe Gibbs standout had shown plenty of speed but consistently found his share of troubles when it mattered most.
After the much-needed victory, Kyle Busch stated, “It’s pretty cool being able to get the monkey off our back, to finally get to Victory Lane this year. It’s been a long time coming. It’s well documented, it’s been over a year, but it’s finally very rewarding to achieve victory, especially here at Pocono.”
The win at Pocono was just what the doctor ordered for the driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota. In the next 16 events, Kyle Busch amassed four more poles and five more victories. He also collected five top-five finishes and 12 top-10 results. In fact, Busch flat out drove his car in front of the field for a total of 983 laps. In all, he carried an average finish of 8.9. It was obvious to all that Busch would once again be a major factor in the title race in 2017.
Once the playoffs began, Kyle Busch made it clear early on that his intentions to get to Miami-Homestead were serious. The speedster tallied back-to-back playoff race triumphs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway in September.
It was obvious that he had a lot of momentum heading into the Round of 12. Nevertheless, Busch was immediately brought back down to earth with a 29th-place result at Charlotte to open the second round. To add insult to injury, the Joe Gibbs phenom also recorded a DNF after a crash at Talladega Superspeedway. Fortunately, he was able to advance to the Round of 8 after calamity took its toll on other drivers ahead of him in the standings.
After fumbling his way through the second round, Kyle Busch bounced back in a big way at Martinsville. Although he didn’t start well (14th), Rowdy moved his way into second by the end of the first stage. By lap 135, the short track wiz had taken the lead and drove out front for the next 122 laps. The checkered flag was raised, and Busch had crossed it in first after leading a race-high 184 circuits. The clutch performance made life a lot easier on the M&M’s team. Now, they were assured of a final spot in the final four in Miami to close out the season.
“We weren’t great, but we just kind of kept ourselves running up front all day long,” Kyle Busch said. “Awesome pit stops also kept us up there, as well. Real proud of all of our guys and our whole team. Being able to get ourselves another opportunity to go race for a championship this year is awesome.”
Kyle Busch went to the Ford Ecoboost 400 looking to do what he did just two years ago. That was to capture the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. After starting third, Busch could constantly be found near the front. In fact, he even took the lead at the mid-portion of the race. Truthfully, it wasn’t until Lap 178 that he started to dominate from the front.
The #18 team decided to use a different pit strategy by staying out when other front-runners pitted. The bold plan was working great as Kyle Busch had an enormous lead over the field. To his dismay, a caution flag flew on Lap 229 for debris and the field was bunched back together. With all the competitors bunched back up, Busch was unable to keep pace with eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, as he twice closed the gap to under a half a second. In the end, it was the Furniture Row Racings race to win and that is just what they did. Kyle Busch finished the championship event just .681 seconds back and settled for second place in the standings.
“It’s hard going to Homestead and being part of the final four. You’re only wanting to win and that’s the only thing that you care about. Everything else is just a failure,” Busch said. “It’s disheartening. It’s disappointing. But in all retrospect, we gotta go focus on what’s ahead in 2018. We need to make sure we’re better than what we were this year and not let that same failure happen again.”
Kyle Busch Bio:
Kyle Busch competes in all three NASCAR national series as a driver. He also runs his own Camping World Truck Series team, Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and the 2009 Xfinity Series master. Busch is actually more dominant in the Xfinity Series. His 91 wins are first all-time. Rowdy was the 2005 Cup Series Rookie of the Year and now has 43 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup triumphs. Throw in his 49 Truck Series first places and you can see why he is considered one of the best drivers in the world.
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