Kyle Busch was not in the championship hunt in 2014 when he finished 39th at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He shouldn't have been back there at the checkers, but a broken axle cost him more than 20 laps behind the wall. In the four races on this track since then, he has set out to prove how strong he might have been.
In 2015 Busch because the second Cup winner under the current rules package. He has not finished worse than sixth in the Ford EcoBoost 400 since.
Busch came within 50 laps of winning his second championship in 2017. In a race that had been dominated by non-playoff driver Kyle Larson for nearly the first two-thirds of event, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. grabbed control on Lap 162. In the final 106 laps, they swapped the lead four times.
Last year Busch did not have quite the same strength. As a playoff contender, he spent much of the race as the fourth-ranked driver. All of the drivers chasing the Cup surged at the end of the race, but Busch’s fourth-place finish was hollow because it made him the worst among them.
The 2019 season has not been nearly as kind as Busch would have hoped. When he has been on his ‘A’ game, he is capable of challenging for the win. He finished third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this spring, in the Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the summer, was second to his brother Kurt Busch at Kentucky Speedway, and third again at Kansas Speedway a few weeks ago. He also has three finishes outside the top 15 on 1.5-mile tracks – often as the result of a mistake by either him or the team.
He has been equally uneven in the playoffs. He started his championship bid 19th at Vegas, finished second at Richmond Raceway and closed out the Round of 16 with a 37th on the Charlotte Roval. In the Round of 12 he had two top-10s and a 19th. His Round of 8 started with a 14th at Martinsville, so he has not been able to put together a string of three strong races in quite some while.
That is not necessary at Homestead; all Busch needs is to be perfect for one race and he’s proved to be capable of doing that. Never underestimate the determination in this driver.
To take the Cup home he is going to need to win, however, and he has not done that since June at Pocono – 22 races ago. Last week he was apparently incapable of passing teammate Denny Hamlin with two fresher tires. He didn’t need the win to qualify for the Championship race, but he may well have needed it for the confidence.