Kyle Busch made it through the first two rounds of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but it wasn’t smooth sailing.
While Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team have had their playoff points to fall back on, keeping them out of serious danger regarding elimination, the former champion has just a 14.3 average finish thus far. That is the result of three top-10 finishes through the first six postseason races.
“Obviously it’s a good thing we ran the way we did through the regular season and got some bonus points — the bonus points that we had to help us through,” said Busch at Martinsville Speedway. “As far as results of the playoffs, I don’t have a sheet in front of me, but I can run you down problems in every single race. There hasn’t been a clean race that we’ve had in the playoffs that have given us the opportunity to run up front all day and be in control of our own destiny towards the end of the race.
“We’re always coming from behind. Every time you’re coming from behind, you can only make up so much and last week (in Kansas) we showed that again. We drove through the field three times and could only get to second. We were limited by second there at the end, even with four tires versus the guy out front with two.”
Busch finished third behind teammate Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott last weekend. Crowned the regular-season champion for the second straight year, Busch starts the Round of 8 at the top of the reseeded playoff grid with an 18-point advantage on the cutline.
Due to what Busch described as “unfortunate circumstances,” he has also been winless since June at Pocono. There have been chances, though. Busch felt he had an opportunity to win at New Hampshire, but damage on a restart with five laps left in a stage led to an extra pit stop and ruined track position. He was second to older brother Kurt Busch in Kentucky after the two fought it out over the final few laps. Since his last win, Busch has finished ninth or better 11 times.
“Give me the list of the season, and I can tell you what’s happened to us,” he said. “It’s just been frustrating for sure.”
In the playoffs, Busch hit the wall in the opener at Las Vegas and then ran into the back of the lapped car of Garrett Smithley. After leading 202 laps in Richmond, he was passed by teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the win inside the final 30 laps. To close out the round, Busch DNF’d at the Roval after suffering damage and a suspension issue.
Over the last three weeks Busch has been sixth (Dover) with a speeding penalty, 19th (Talladega) where he was involved in the last wreck, and third (Kansas) with some damage suffered early in the day.
On his concern level for the next three races in hopes of advancing to Homestead with a title shot, Busch said, “Whatever comes up next, tackle it when it gets there. What are you going to do? I can’t tell you that I’m going to have a perfect race and everything is going to be clean, and I could go out there and win Martinsville. If we could, let’s go home. You just have to tackle it as it comes against you and deal with it then.”
Busch has won at each of the three tracks in the Round of 8. His second victory at Martinsville occurred in the fall of 2017.