As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the penultimate race on its 36-race schedule at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S team are focused on controlling their own destiny as Sunday’s Can-Am 500k serves as the final cutoff for the Championship 4 the following weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), currently sits 28 points ahead of fifth-place Kurt Busch and needs a strong performance in Sunday’s playoff cutoff race to advance to the Cup Series finale with a shot at this year’s championship.
Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick are already locked into the winner-take-all Championship 4 at Homestead with their victories at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, respectively the last two weekends. Two more drivers will complete the Championship 4 field after the Phoenix race is complete. Busch and defending-champion and fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr., who’s four points behind him, hold down the next two spots in the standings. Finishing ahead of Truex in Sunday’s first two race stages and at the race finish enables Busch to control his own Championship 4 destiny. An outright race win would also automatically put Busch into the Championship 4 for the fourth consecutive season.
In 26 Cup Series starts at the mile oval known as the “Diamond in the Desert,” Busch has one win, eight top-five finishes and 18 top-10s while scoring top-five finishes in five of his last six starts there, including a runner-up finish in this year’s spring race.
Busch finished a solid eighth in his very first outing at Phoenix in the spring of 2005, followed by his second career Cup Series victory in his next start there in the fall race that year. Coincidentally, Busch’s first Cup Series win came just 10 races prior in another desert-like setting not too far from his hometown of Las Vegas – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
So as the Cup Series season and playoffs wind down, Busch will focus on running well and controlling his own destiny in Phoenix in order to be among the four drivers who will compete in the winner-take-all Championship 4 at Homestead next weekend.