Four wins. Regular-season champion. Forty-five playoff points. Seeded first for the postseason.
And one familiar question for Kyle Busch at media day.
“I’ve been asked this question every single year, and yeah, if you don’t win a championship it’s disappointing,” Busch said Thursday in Las Vegas. “I’ve been to the Homestead race four years in a row, and I’ve only won it once. I don’t know if that is a little LeBron James-esque, but it feels like I can get there but just can’t seal the deal. It’s kind of crazy that it comes down to one race and one race track.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing ace made his first Championship 4 appearance in 2015 – a year remembered for Busch finishing off his remarkable comeback story by winning five races, including the finale, and his first title just nine months after being seriously injured at Daytona.
Busch has been a force in the series and a constant in the title race in the years since. He is one of just two drivers who have had a shot at the championship four of the last five years – most in the series, as no one driver has made it every season. Problem is, even though the Miami mile-and-a-half is one of Busch better racetracks (he’s finished in the top six the last three straight years), it has not been good enough to earn him a second championship.
“When I won it in ’15 and then we got back there again in ’16, the desire was there,” Busch said. “[In] ’17, the desire was there probably even more so because we were the fastest car, and then last year it was just about survival. We were terrible, so I knew that we didn’t have a shot. It was just ugly for whatever reason; we’re not sure really why. We’ll see what happens this year.
“You don’t ever lose that drive and that desire to be able to go out there and to have (title) number two or number three. Think about it, I’ve been there four years in a row. If I would have won it four years in a row, we’d be talking about a whole different dynasty right now. It would certainly be nice to get those accomplishments when you’re given those opportunities and they’re right there in front of you. But, the reason why we race it out is because there are three other guys that are going to be in that race that are worthy of winning that race too.”
Busch is certain getting over the hump with a second title would mean more than only having one. Three may not be a big deal. Four and five would be huge.
“If I could get a handful of them, I would say that’s probably a successful career,” said the 34-year-old, who has routinely made it clear he intends on racing for years to come. “Years ago if you would have asked me that question, I would have said seven or eight is possible. Right now, probably five I would say.”
When it comes to Busch’s insurance policy – playoff points – he said he isn’t looking to have to use them as a fallback. And, having them also isn’t going to change how his No. 18 Toyota team approaches each race and each round.
“First and foremost, we try to figure out how we can win each and every week,” Busch said. “Then as the race goes on, we then kind of figure out what the points look like and where the cutoff is for guys that are or aren’t going to make it.”