Early 2018 observations: Don't let Stewart-Haas Racing overshadow Kyle Busch's start

From The Marbles
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/1119/" data-ylk="slk:Clint Bowyer">Clint Bowyer</a> (14) leads with <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/947/" data-ylk="slk:Kyle Busch">Kyle Busch</a> (18) behind him during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Monday, March 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Bell)
Clint Bowyer (14) leads with Kyle Busch (18) behind him during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Monday, March 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Bell)

Kyle Busch was a frustrated guy once again on Monday.

That’s an odd thing to say about a driver who climbed from a car that finished second at Martinsville, but Busch isn’t a guy who isn’t too big on finishing second. It’s the first loser, as Ricky Bobby once said.

Busch has finished second a lot so far in 2018. Monday was his third second-place finish of the season. And each of those three finishes have come behind a guy who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch was second to Kevin Harvick at Las Vegas and Phoenix and Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer won Monday.

“I mean, we take solace, sure, but you know, ultimately we’re here to win each and every week,” Busch said. “I know everybody is, but we’ve been that close each and every week, so we’re right there, we’re knocking on the door. We’re trying. I wouldn’t say it’s one particular thing that we can pinpoint, we’ve just been beat by somebody kind of hitting it a little bit more than we have.  And we’ve been the closest thing to everybody each and every week. We’re getting beat by different guys.”

“The SHR team is certainly probably one of the better teams right now, but we’re right there knocking at their heels.”

Busch’s 50 percent second-place rate through the first six races of 2018 isn’t sustainable. He’s bound to regress to the mean a bit. But he’s also bound to win a race or two sometime soon. While Stewart-Haas looks poised to do what Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team did in 2016 and get all four of its cars into the playoffs, Busch has been one of the three best in the Cup Series so far and looks very much like a guy who will make a fifth-straight appearance in NASCAR’s final four.

Here are some other observations through the first six races of the season as NASCAR heads into the first off-weekend of 2018.

• Chase Elliot’s 20-point penalty from Phoenix is still proving costly. Elliott is 18th in the points standings after Martinsville. Without the penalty, he’s 16th in the standings and just 17 points out of 12th.

• Elliott’s teammate Alex Bowman is the highest Hendrick Motorsports driver in the points standings. Bowman is 14th despite having just one top-10 finish this season. Bowman, Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and William Byron have combined for five top-10 finishes. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano each have five top 10s themselves.

Daniel Suarez is having a rough start to the year. Suarez has finished inside the top 15 just twice and has been victim to some pretty crappy luck. He got caught in a crash at Daytona, ran out of gas at Las Vegas and finished 18th at Martinsville after getting caught in some contact that wasn’t of his own creation either.

• The only two drivers who may be having more disappointing starts than Suarez are Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne. They occupy spots Nos. 26 and 27 in the points standings respectively and have led a combined total of two laps. McMurray’s best finish of the season is a 16th and Kahne’s best is a 19th.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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