Back in June, everyone was wondering what was wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing. It took 19 races before a JGR driver won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race when Denny Hamlin took his Toyota to victory lane at New Hampshire in July. That was the turning point for the organization. Over the last eight races of the regular season, JGR took four victories. In the playoffs, Kyle Busch has three more trips to victory lane.
That’s seven wins over the last 16 races. They had none in the first 19.
It’s not like Busch was bad to start the year off though, but he had just three top 10 finishes the first nine races. On top of that, he had some terrible end of the race luck.
At Phoenix in the spring, he led 114 laps and was well on his way to a win until a late race caution. Busch and some of the other leaders hit pit road, Ryan Newman didn’t. Busch would finish third as a result of that late race yellow. At Martinsville, Busch led 274 more laps only to finish second to Brad Keselowski. At Talladega Busch led a race-high 48 laps and was leading at the end of regulation but a caution flew once again at the end. He’d finish third. He was on the wrong end of pit strategy in the Coca-Cola 600 and came home second. At Pocono in June, Busch was leading before a late race caution flew again and Busch was a lame duck. If he stayed out in the end, the others would have pitted for new tires. If he pitted, like he did, others stayed out. Busch would finish ninth after leading 100 laps that day.
The next week at Michigan, he led 40 laps and was caught up in a late race caution again. He finished seventh. In July at Kentucky, Busch led 112 laps only to have pit strategy ruin his night and finish fifth. The next week at Loudon, he led 95 laps only to have two pit road speeding penalties and finish 12th. The week after that at Indy, Busch led 87 laps only to get caught up in a crash in Turn 1 with Martin Truex Jr.
That’s nine races that Busch could have won.
But, the luck has since changed. Once it did, the wins started coming. That’s not a fluke.
At Pocono in July, Busch led 74 laps from the pole and won his first race of the season. At Bristol, he swept the race weekend in all three NASCAR divisions. He also won at Loudon, Dover and Martinsville in the playoffs too.
Since that win at Pocono, Busch has had 12 top 10 finishes, including four wins and six top fives. Prior to that, Busch had zero wins, seven top fives.
Now, Busch heads to Homestead with a shot at ending the season on top. In fact, Busch has led a lap in 17 of the last 18 races. Even further, he’s led at least one lap in 25 of the last 27 events of the season. Plus, at Homestead, Busch has four top seven finishes over his last five starts at the South Florida track.
The momentum is on Busch’s side and he’s hoping for his second Cup championship in three years.