For the first time since 2001, Homestead-Miami Speedway won’t be the host for the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. For the last six seasons in particular at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval, competitors in NASCAR’s top three series had grown accustomed to seeing the final four drivers left in each series’ playoffs wage a winner-take-all battle for the season-ending championship, making for many dramatic moments.
With the finale moved to Phoenix Raceway this year, Homestead was poised for a late-March event. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Homestead 400 to be moved yet again – to this Sunday.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was a huge part of many of those Cup Series championship battles at Homestead as he was one of the final four playoff drivers each of the past five seasons to compete for the championship. Busch brought home titles in 2015 and 2019 at Homestead, along with a runner-up position in 2017. His worst finish in his five-year Championship 4 run was a sixth-place run in the 2016 race.
Sunday’s 400-mile Homestead race will be different than Busch can ever remember. The mindset has changed from doing whatever he and his team can to be the first of four championship-contending cars to take the checkered flag and win the prestigious title, to just adding another race win in order to be eligible for the title when the 10-race, 16-driver playoffs start in early September.
With two wins and four top-five finishes there over the last five seasons, Busch has become a strong contender at the variable-banked oval. But the M&M’S Fudge Brownie driver hasn’t always been as strong on his visits to Homestead, as his first seven starts there would indicate. But starting in 2012 with his fourth-place run there, he has reeled off five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in his last eight starts at Homestead. His most impressive races at Homestead, of course, were his 2015 and 2019 championship-winning victories. The memory of celebrating multiple titles there will always provide fond memories for the Las Vegas native.
So, as Busch heads to South Florida on Sunday afternoon, the M&M’S Fudge Brownie driver won’t have the championship pressure to contend with, but that doesn’t mean he won’t aim to bring home his third Cup Series win at a place that has provided many great memories.