With his ticket to the championship race punched by a Martinsville Speedway victory, Kyle Busch will spend the next two weeks looking to keep the pressure on his competition.
“We’ll focus on the next two weeks and being able to go race for wins still in order to kind of keep everybody on their toes and everybody worried about whether they’ll get through on points or not,” Busch said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Crew chief Adam Stevens also looks at Texas and Phoenix as important weekends. Saying he will be working his guts out, attention for the No. 18 team will be on pit practices, finishing well and reviewing some notes from teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.
Hamlin and Truex were among eight drivers who got a jump on season finale preparations by participating in an organizational test at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 25-26.
“We have the luxury of being able to focus on Homestead, think about Homestead, plan setups, plan practice and think about that weekend solely,” said Stevens. “But saying that, we still need to go these next two weeks and execute and perform and keep some momentum.
“You don’t want to go and perform poorly and have bad days on pit road and think you’re going to flip a light switch when you get to Homestead just because you got to look at a notebook longer than somebody else.”
The 2015 Cup champion, Busch is anxious and excited about being in title contention when he returns to Homestead. Last year, Busch finished sixth in the race and third in the standings. He finished behind Jimmie Johnson, who won the race and the championship, and Joey Logano, who took the championship runner-up spot by finishing fourth in the race.
Under the current elimination-style format, this will be the third straight season in which Busch is among the final four at Homestead. When Busch won the title in ’15, he did so by winning the race. In 12 career starts at the 1.5-mile speedway, Busch has one win and five top-10 finishes.
Statistics aside, Busch knows the intensity ramps up with so much on the line.
“It’s going to be a tough race. It’s never easy,” he said. “All the Championship Four are going to be fast. It is every single time we go down there. It’s crazy to look at it today how many of the championship guys were right up front in the top six, top seven.
“That’s just kind of the way this business is when it comes down to the end of the season. The cream will always rise, and those guys will always be a part of the race and be a factor.”
Busch does not yet know who his championship foes will be and he hasn’t ruled anyone out.
“I feel as though the 78 [Truex] will be one of those and whether or not the 11 [Hamlin] can be another one of those and if it’s going to be the 2 [Brad Keselowski] or the 4 [Kevin Harvick] or whoever, maybe even the 24 [Chase Elliott] or the 21 [Ryan Blaney] for as fast as the 21 was at Texas, who knows,” Busch said.
“I think it’s kind of wide open to see how that’s going to play out for the rest of the playoff contenders.”