Kyle Busch is a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, and neither championship run came without its struggles.
The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota may have dominated the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend, leading a race-high 120 of 267 laps and the final 45 circuits to the checkered flag, but he entered as the underdog. Admittedly so, too. The other Championship 4 drivers advanced thanks to a playoff win, while Busch made it through on points alone.
Prior to the green flag at the 1.5-mile track in South Florida, Busch found himself stuck in a 21-race winless drought. He won at Pocono Raceway in June and then not again until the Miami event in November. That‘s more than half the season without a trip to Victory Lane — odd for someone who has 56 victories in the sport‘s premier league.
Busch was last triumphant at Miami in 2015, when he secured his first career title. That year featured even more uncertainty than this most recent.
For starters, Busch sustained injuries to his right leg and left foot in a crash during the opening race for the Xfinity Series, in which he competed as a part-timer, at Daytona International Speedway. This setback sidelined him for the first 11 Cup Series events. It wasn‘t until May‘s All-Star race Busch returned behind the wheel and began his delayed title quest. He did, however, wind up having a 15-race winless skid that started after his July victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ended in Miami.
Both championship seasons still finished with Busch hoisting the ultimate trophy after his five total wins. He also had one pole in each year, coming during their respective winless streaks.
Upon first glance, this last season looks stronger overall. Busch busted out an 8.9 average finish in 2019 through 36 races, while managing a 10.8 average finish in 2015 through 25 races. Even during the winless period, Busch averaged a 9.9 finish through the 15 races in 2015 and an 11.1 finish through the 21 races in 2019. Keep in mind, though, the different sample sizes for those comparisons.
During the playoffs — specifically the nine races broken up into three rounds before the final event — 2015 had better marks. En route to his first title, Busch averaged a 10.8 pre-Miami finish. His second title run saw a 12.1 pre-Miami average finish. (See table below for results.)
Then, while at Miami, Busch had the best running position of the Championship 4 — which ultimately determines the title winner — for 206 laps in 2015 and for 120 in laps in 2019.
Either season can be argued as the better of the two when looking at the numbers. Regardless, Busch now joins Jimmie “Seven-Time” Johnson as the only active drivers with more than one title.
Busch in the NASCAR Playoffs during title seasons
|Chicagoland Speedway: 9th||Las Vegas Motor Speedway: 19th|
|New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 37th||Richmond Raceway: 2nd|
|Dover International Speedway: 2nd||Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval: 37th|
|Charlotte Motor Speedway: 20th||Dover International Speedway: 6th|
|Kansas Speedway: 5th||Talladega Superspeedway: 19th|
|Talladega Superspeedway: 11th||Kansas Speedway: 3rd|
|Martinsville Speedway: 5th||Martinsville Speedway: 14th|
|Texas Motor Speedway: 4th||Texas Motor Speedway: 7th|
|ISM Raceway (Phoenix): 4th||ISM Raceway (Phoenix): 2nd|
|Homestead-Miami Speedway: 1st||Homestead-Miami Speedway: 1st|