Here’s a statistic that might surprise: No one has more top-five finishes in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup than Kyle Busch.
Not Brad Keselowski, who has three top fives.
Not Kasey Kahne, who has four.
Not even Jimmie Johnson, who is tied with Busch for most top fives in the Chase with six.
There’s only one problem, at least from the Busch side of the equation: Johnson is racing for a championship, while Busch is going to finish the year 13th, the third time in five seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing that he’s failed to crack the top 10.
This has been a peculiar year for Busch, but he’s hoping to finish on a strong note. Usually, the 10 Chase races are the weakest part of his schedule, but this year he’s been unusually strong. Busch finished 28th at New Hampshire and 31st at Kansas, but his other seven Chase finishes have all been seventh or better, including a third Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
What he hasn’t been able to do, despite the wealth of top-five finishes, is get to Victory Lane often.
Since joining JGR in 2008, Busch won 83 races in NASCAR’s top three divisions through the end of 2011. This year, though, he’s won just once in 58 starts, capturing the Richmond Sprint Cup race in the spring.
Busch has three chances to win this weekend, as once again he’ll compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping Truck Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
And he’s hoping the final NASCAR weekend of the year is a good one for him.
“I wish we could have won Phoenix,” Busch said. “But Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and all of the M848ff8if9a6fb627facGGcdbcce6M’s guys have done an awesome job the last nine weeks. We’ve had great pit stops and our cars have had a lot of speed in them, too.”
Given that he’s never finished better than eighth in a Cup race at Homestead, it’s fair to say the track is a challenging one for Busch. But he does feel his performance is getting better there.
“Homestead hasn’t been a great place for me, but I feel like running all three races at Homestead is an advantage for me this weekend,” Busch said. “In the other two races, you get your courage up running around the top, where it’s usually the fastest, so by Sunday you are just more comfortable running up there. Our cars have been really good there lately, so I think we have another shot of running well again and we can finally get that win.”
Closing strong is always important for race teams as they look to enter the off-season on a high note.
“The way our season has gone, it would mean a lot,” Busch said. “I think we already have a lot of momentum going into next season, but another win wouldn’t hurt.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.