Kyle Busch deserved much better at Brickyard, but he should be favorite at Pocono
July 25, 2017 3:09 AM
by Micah Roberts
Man, Kyle Busch got hosed on Sunday going for his third straight Brickyard win and first of the season. The Las Vegan had the best car at Indy and the second best car, driven by Martin Truex Jr., was the one who ended his day when Truex’s tires couldn’t stick to the asphalt coming around Turn 1 while side-by-side late in the race.
Kasey Kahne would go on to win his first Brickyard 400 and first victory anywhere since August of 2014 in Atlanta. He’s locked in to the playoffs and is also the ninth straight different winner on the schedule. It’s a diverse bunch in the Cup Series with 13 different winners on the season now, even though Joey Logano’s Richmond win doesn’t officially qualify him for the playoffs because his crew bent the rule book.
The fact that Kyle Busch isn’t one of those 13 winning drivers is absolutely amazing. He’s had all kinds of bad luck this season and Sunday’s race was just one on a long list of crummy stories. He’s in no danger of missing the playoffs yet, but the way new guys keep popping up and winning races, realistically, he is in danger of missing the playoffs if he doesn’t get a win. If four new drivers win a race in the next six races and he doesn’t, he’s out. It’s improbable, but still the truth.
Despite Busch not having won a race since last season’s Brickyard 400, he’s still going to be considered a favorite to win Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile tricky triangle. He’s never won there in 25 career starts, but when looking back at the June 11 race there and last week at the Brickyard it’s easy to understand why he’s a great candidate to win. Pocono and Indy can be grouped in because of the 2.5-mile layout, long straights and flat corners.
All he did at Pocono last month was lead 100 of the 160 laps, but had the misfortune of using older tires on a restart with 10 laps to go and getting beat out of the gate by Ryan Blaney. On Sunday he led 87 of the 160 laps at the Brickyard. He clearly had the best cars in both races and yet came away with a ninth-place finish and a 34th-place finish.
Busch just has to be patient and not get too frustrated. The good news for him is two weeks ago his teammate Denny Hamlin grabbed the first win of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR had been tinkering with the new Camry body style and engine horsepower all season. They didn’t expect it all to fully come around until the playoffs started, but it happened much earlier. And we’re seeing the effect of it with Busch, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and even Daniel Suarez being at their best lately.
Historically, Hamlin has been the best at Pocono with four wins in 23 starts. Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with 738 laps led while winning three times in 31 starts. Kurt Busch also has three wins and leads the series with 14 top-5s in 32 starts.
A long shot to consider is Dale Earnhardt Jr, who swept the Pocono season in 2014. Last season he was runner-up. This is his final season before jumping into the NBC broadcasting booth next season and it’s probably his best chance to win and qualify for the playoffs.