NASCAR Cup Series
Can Kyle Busch salvage his frustrating season?
NASCAR Cup Series

Can Kyle Busch salvage his frustrating season?

Published Jun. 12, 2024 12:31 p.m. ET

Kyle Busch got wrecked and ran out of gas on the final lap Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

And it was still his best finish in his past four races.

That speaks volumes of the recent stretch for Busch as that 12th-place finish had followed a 27th at Darlington, 15th at Charlotte and 35th at Gateway. Mixed in there was the fight with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. following the all-star race. He has dropped from 11th in the standings to 15th (and at one point was 17th). 

A driver who has finished top-10 in 55 percent of his Cup starts entering this season has just five top-10s in 16 starts this year. No wonder Busch said that has been one of the toughest stretches in his career.


And that was before Ross Chastain got into him on Sunday. Although Busch ran out of gas by the end of that lap, it appears he didn't feel he had an issue before being turned. Denny Hamlin, on his "Actions Detrimental" podcast, indicated that the data he saw showed Busch had an issue, which Chastain said he thought as well. But Busch also was on older tires, and Chastain, on fresher tires, also might have just gotten a run on him he didn't expect.

And despite all the talk about the struggles, he sits just eight points out of a playoff spot at the moment, however, Kevin Harvick said on his "Kevin Harvick's Happy Hour" podcast he's ready to push the panic button on Busch.

That might be tempting but this team's performance has been mercurial enough that it's possible if they just make the most out of their days, they will make the playoffs. He has started top-10 in four of the last seven races. In the three races before Darlington, he had finished top-10 in five of the six stages. And that came at three different tracks at Talladega, Dover and Kansas.

If he can get those top-10 starts and earn stage points, as long as there aren't too many new winners outside the top-16 in points, he should make the playoffs. Granted, just making the playoffs is not the goal, but if he can make the playoffs, there is that opportunity to win and advance.

And would anyone truly be surprised if Busch pulls off a win? Granted, they aren't running well, but he is talented enough that if they hit the sweet spot occasionally, he could put it in victory lane.

Busch has 63 career wins and desperately wants a win not just to make the playoffs but to continue his streak of winning every season, a streak that currently sits at 19.

No one would be surprised if he wins this weekend at Iowa. And no one would be surprised if he finishes 20th. That hasn't always been the case for Busch. But he's in pretty good company when it comes to that in the Next Gen car this year — Joey Logano, the other two-time Cup champion other than Busch, among them.

This isn't to imply that Busch is the championship contender at the moment that he would want to be. And he is unlikely to emerge as one during the season. But he can take steps toward that at Richard Childress Racing. There's reason to be concerned but not to panic just yet. 

And this isn't the time to say it should be the end of the Busch-RCR relationship — that would be short-sighted. This is a team that won three races with Tyler Reddick in 2022 and then three more with Busch last year.

Yes, they have not won in 37 consecutive races, more than one full season. But crew chief Randall Burnett is one of the best in the garage and Busch is obviously one of the best as the drivers. The nature of the Next Gen car is when things are just a little bit off, it is difficult to make up the difference. That isn't going to change if Busch starts looking for another team.

Busch's best move: Know that things go in cycles and with the work he has put in to win 63 races in his career — including three last year — should help him out of this slump. At RCR.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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