Kyle Busch sat second in the championship standings and was riding three consecutive top-three finishes after NASCAR’s first visit to World Wide Technology Raceway earlier this summer.
How quickly things change in racing…
Busch enters Michigan International Speedway (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, USA Network) looking for momentum. In the last seven races, Busch’s No. 18 team from Joe Gibbs Racing has finished no better than 11th, and he’s slid to eighth in points. It’s a stretch that includes what could have been a runner-up finish at Pocono Raceway before his car was disqualified.
“I guess, if you look at that dark cloud that’s over me lately, we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot of times,” Busch said Saturday morning. “To get Nashville back — that [should have been] a second-place finish.”
Busch was running second at Nashville before the last caution, and the field split on strategy. Lined up 12th on the restart, he got caught in an outside lane that didn’t have as much momentum as the bottom, and then he got into the wall multiple times. The finish — 21st.
“Pocono was the second-place finish,” said Busch, who crossed the finish line second behind teammate Denny Hamlin before both cars were disqualified for tape on the front fascia. “The road courses have been a struggle. We haven’t been that great there, but we had some promise at the Indy road course. We were 10th going into that second-to-last restart and got spun out and went back to [P30] or whatever it was, got tires for the final restart, got back to 11th at least.
“But just before that second-last caution came out, I passed the No. 2 [Austin Cindric] car on the racetrack in racing conditions, and he goes on to find his way through all the holes and gets a second.”
The left and right turns on road courses have been a weakness of the Toyota camp. Bubba Wallace was the only Toyota finisher in the top 10 at Indianapolis, but a Toyota driver failed to finish inside the top 10 at Road America. Busch’s finish at Indianapolis — 11th — is his best result in four road course races (the other three were 28th or worse).
Despite the lack of results, Busch has run well and led laps. He led 54 laps at Nashville and 63 laps at Pocono, where he also won the second stage, but that accomplishment and playoff point was wiped away in the disqualification.
“It’s just it’s a matter of luck, and there is absolutely none following the No. 18 car right now,” Busch said. “It’s disappointing. I’m sure there’s others that don’t have luck either. You look at Ty Dillon, who just gets blindsided into a corner (last weekend by Kyle Larson), so he’s in the same boat.
“But [we have] to keep going and keep fighting and go into next week. Hopefully this Michigan package will suit our style with the…speed that we’ve had as a JGR and Toyota group.”
Busch finished seventh at Michigan last season and is working on a streak of nine consecutive top-10 finishes. Toyota last won at Michigan in 2015.