In Kyle Busch’s case, it’s difficult to say three is a trend.
With the career he’s had, trendy seems a bit insulting.
No, Sunday’s third win of the season was a statement. And it was his boldest yet at Richard Childress Racing.
It was certainly the team’s most complete performance. Busch won the pole on Saturday, won Stage 1, nearly rallied to win Stage 2 and then survived repeated restarts down the stretch, holding off the likes of Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano to boot.
So, what does it mean?
SPEED FREAKS: Kyle Busch is going one way, Ross Chastain the other
Well, it means Busch is on the shortest list of title contenders. With a third Cup Series championship, Busch would join a list of only nine others with three or more, a few of which you may have heard of — Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson (all with seven), Jeff Gordon (four), Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Tony Stewart (three each).
Among them, only three won titles with more than one organization, with Earnhardt claiming his first at Osterlund Racing before winning six at RCR, Tony Stewart winning two with Joe Gibbs Racing before claiming a third with Stewart-Haas Racing, and David Pearson winning for Cotton Owens Racing in 1966 and then for Holman-Moody in 1968 and 1969.
Busch would be the first among them to win a championship in his inaugural season with a new team.
Among modern drivers, Busch is often compared most directly to Kevin Harvick. But Busch now leads in wins 63-60, has a 2-1 advantage in titles and with Harvick retiring this season and Busch, still just 38 years old, showing signs of another career peak, that debate seems more and more one sided by the win.
Busch continues to put himself in rarer air. There’s nothing trendy about it.
Let’s go through the gears.
First gear: Austin Dillon demands suspension for Austin Cindric
Austin Dillon is demanding it.
Late in Sunday’s race, Dillon was sent into the fence, taking Ricky Stenhouse along with him after being hooked in the right rear by Austin Cindric. The contact was awfully similar to last week’s between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin in which Elliott was hit with a one-race suspension. Bubba Wallace was also parked a week in October for hooking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas.
However, while purposeful intention was evident in those two incidents, it wasn’t necessarily so on Sunday. A replay showed Cindric moving down the racetrack a bit, but Dillon said there was no doubt in his mind.
“I was wrecked intentionally by him, hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal,” Dillon said. “He better be suspended next week.”
Second gear: Noah Gragson crashes and Thomas Hatcher, Erik Jones pit crew member injured
The hits just keep coming for Legacy Motor Club. Literally.
Noah Gragson endured a brutal hit after becoming one of four drivers to have brake rotors fail during Sunday’s race. And an even scarier moment occurred on pit road when Thomas Hatcher, a tire changer on Erik Jones’ car, had to be taken off in an ambulance.
It was originally reported that Dillon contacted Hatcher with his car but that report was later debunked with the injury occurring due to a collision between crew members. No updates were available on Hatcher as of Monday morning with reports on Sunday night listing Hatcher as “awake and alert”.
Gragson was also visibly shaken after his impact and while he seemed OK physically, his remarks revealed a team that’s feeling the burden of a season that’s already gone terribly awry.
“It was a hard-ass hit, for sure,” Gragson said. “It’s just been tough on us. Thought we were going to have a decent day, ran on the lead lap the whole day, just nothing to show for it now. Going to probably one of my favorite places next week, Sonoma, and I’ve been counting down the days until this offseason.”
Third gear: Michael McDowell gets "Chastained"
After a quiet Coca-Cola 600, Ross Chastain was back in the middle of a collision on Sunday, turning Michael McDowell on a restart after entering Turn 1 three wide.
“I believe these days they call it getting, ‘Chastained’,” McDowell’s team radioed.
McDowell rallied to finish ninth but for Chastain, it marked a third-straight clunker as he came home 22nd, his third straight finish of 22nd or worse.
William Byron overtook Chastain for the points lead on Sunday in the process.
Fourth gear: Sonoma facts and trends
Looking to Sunday’s race at Sonoma, not only is Daniel Suarez the defending champion, but he has the best average finish among drivers with at least five starts (12.2).
Martin Truex is the active wins leader at the Wine Country road course with three, with only one other driver holding multiple wins: Kyle Busch (two).
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR: Kyle Busch approaching legends, Dillon calls for suspension