Talladega the best chance to turn season around for Busch and RCR

Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is a chance for many in the NASCAR Cup Series field to turn things around with one race, which is good news for defending winner Kyle Busch.

Busch is expected to be a factor, as superspeedway events have been a strength of the team. The two-time series champion had one of the best opportunities of his career to win the Daytona 500 for the first time last season before he prevailed at Talladega two months later. Busch has led laps in eight of his nine superspeedway races driving the No. 8 Chevrolet.

“It’s [an opportunity race] for everybody, right?” Busch said after qualifying fourth. “But I think it is for us as well, too, just having good stuff at these places. It seems the cars have an easier time or a better opportunity of making something [happen] on their own than where I previously was.”

Busch credited Richard Childress Racing and ECR engines for building fast race cars. That means it’s “fun” for Busch to visit the superspeedway venues of Daytona, Atlanta, and Talladega and know he’s got a shot at victory.

Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, Fox) will be the 31st start since Busch and his team last went to victory lane. The triumph in St. Louis in early June was the third win in his first season driving for Childress, but it’s been a battle since then. He finished 20th or worse in five of the final 10 races and finished 14th in the standings.

A quarter of the season is complete, and Busch is 16th in the standings with no stage wins and 26 stage points. He earned his third top-10 finish a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Obviously we have not been anywhere where we need to be this year,” crew chief Randall Burnett told last weekend. “We started off and had some speed the first couple of races, but it’s been a downward slide for us since then, so we’re going to keep working on it. Everybody at RCR and ECR is working really hard; we’ve got a long way to go to get to where we need to be, especially with Kyle, and to get this No. 8 car back up front.”

Busch has led 63 laps in nine races, the bulk coming in the first three races at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. In that stretch, he finished 12th, third and 26th. Then came a three-week stretch where a 22nd-place finish was Busch’s best effort. He has not led since Bristol Motor Speedway last month.

The inconsistency led Busch to describe his season a few weeks ago as “a lot of missed potential.” Although there have been times that he felt his cars have had good speed, there have been numerous things that have hindered the results.

As it stands – and there are 16 races remaining in the regular season, including Talladega — Busch is near the bubble spot on the playoff grid. He’s never missed the postseason in the elimination era.

“The points will take care of themselves if you run better and run well and can get stage points and get good finishes,” Busch said of his points position. “We obviously haven’t been doing that lately, and I presume we’re lower than we want to be, but that’s just the nature of what we got right now.”

Story originally appeared on Racer