Kyle Busch has found his winning touch again in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
After one win only in Cup competition and none in Nationwide last year, Busch has made plenty of trips to victory lane this season. And it looks as though he'll be making a lot more for the remainder of the year.
Busch scored a weekend sweep at Texas, putting on dominating performances in Friday's 300-mile Nationwide race and Saturday's 500-mile Cup event. It's the second time this season he has won both races at the same racetrack on the same weekend. He also did it last month in Fontana, Calif.
What has been Busch's secret to his success in 2013?
Well, give a lot of credit to team owner and former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, who has spent a little extra money to make his Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams more competitive this season.
Busch is profiting from Gibbs' investment.
"Joe has spent some of his personal money over the offseason to build a few new cars for each team," Busch said. "We're still utilizing chassis and whatnot from last year and re-bodying those cars and whatnot. But there was some other stuff that we wanted to try to some other cars. Instead of just completely redoing the fleet, we did a couple cars for each team, and that was Joe. That wasn't in the budget. So we appreciate that and all the football years that he spent. It makes our race team a lot better."
Last year, Busch did not make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup title, coming up three points short of a playoff spot. DNFs in the spring event at Dover and both Pocono races hampered his chances of making the Chase. Busch also had a heartbreaker at Watkins Glen, N.Y., where he was on the way to victory, but while leading on the final lap, his car was leaking oil, which caused him to slide off the track and make contact with Brad Keselowski. Marcos Ambrose won the race, while Busch settled for seventh.
"I think back to last year at the end of the year, Kyle probably had some of the most bitter disappointments, I think, that's happened to us in 22 years (of Joe Gibbs Racing)," Gibbs said. "I think at the end of last year, Kyle really handled all of those things about as good as you could handle them. I think it showed real maturity, and I think that really kind of set the course for this year."
Barring some unforeseen incident, Busch will likely be one of the 12 drivers in this year's Chase. Right now, he is third in the standings (18 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson). If Busch were to fall out of the top 10 in points when the regular season concludes in September at Richmond, his two wins should be good enough to earn him a wild card spot.
"Winning two races so far this year, you'd say that's a lock, but anything can happen," Busch said. "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. One is coming up next week (Kansas Speedway), so 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."
It had been a bit of a rough start for Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team this season. He finished 34th in the Daytona 500 after suffering engine failure in the late going. Busch placed 23rd the following week at Phoenix. But he's been on a tear since then, finishing no worse than fifth in the last five races.
Dave Rogers is now in his fourth season as crew chief for Busch's team. Rogers knows their heading in the right direction and the pressure to make this year's Chase is becoming less and less with each win.
"Everyone's more relaxed," Rogers said. "When we can come out here and knock out a couple wins pretty early and put ourselves up front in points, it lets us start doing some long-term planning, and making sure when the Chase comes around, we have some of the best race cars sitting on jack stands, so we know how to build.
"Last year, with the pressure on us, trying to make the Chase, we were trying to bring our best stuff to the last laps and mixing it up a little bit. We still had really good cars in the Chase, but they could have been even better. So I think the early momentum really sets up the entire season."
Busch has been the dominant driver in Nationwide this season, winning four of the last five races. He drove for his own team in NASCAR's second-tier series this past season. During the offseason, Busch agreed to drive the No. 54 Toyota for JGR in a majority of the 33 Nationwide races this year. Most of his wins in that series have come with JGR.
The 27-year-old Busch has already scored a combined 111 victories in NASCAR's three national touring series -- 26 in Sprint Cup, a record 55 in Nationwide and 30 in the Camping World Truck Series.
"It's great for who I am and what I've done and been able to accomplish in this sport, and I'm thankful for that," he said. "Of course, you always wish your stats were a little bit better. I'd love to say that I've had 50 (Sprint Cup Series) wins by now or something like that. But you take everything with a grain of salt as best you can, and we'll continue to work hard. Hopefully, we can continue to increase that number for many years to come."