Despite the fact the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just seven weeks ago, Kyle Busch is more than eager to make a return trip in an effort to continue moving forward with another strong run in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at the 2.5-mile triangle.
When the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) last visited Pocono, it marked the second race in what evolved into a frustrating midseason streak of bad luck as mechanical issues just short of the halfway point of the 400-mile race sent him to the sidelines.
It was just one of a plethora of issues that kept Busch from recording a top-five finish over a seven-race stretch following his third-place finish in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. But last weekend, the talented 27-year-old finally broke through by notching his first top-five since Charlotte with a strong runner-up finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With the monkey finally off his back, the Las Vegas native and his M&M’s team are as energized as ever to make a strong push all the way through the final six-race stretch before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is locked in Sept. 9 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Busch gained two spots in the standings with his runner-up finish at Indianapolis and now sits 11th.That position, coupled with his April victory at Richmond, puts him in the last of 12 Chase spots as the driver with the highest ranking with one series win. Kasey Kahne, despite his 13th position in the points, occupies the 11th Chase spot by virtue of his two victories this season. Nonetheless, Busch remains ahead of a handful of drivers also within the top-20 who also have a win, including JGR teammate Joey Logano and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman.
So, with six races to go before the Chase, Busch and the No. 18 team know it would be foolish to cruise toward the playoffs. Rather, their plan is to win their way in. And by looking at the upcoming schedule and some recent history, it’s understandable that they are excited about the next six races.
While he has yet to win at Pocono, Busch had finishes of second and third there in 2011, he has one Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and is the defending winner of the August race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Then, it’s on to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where Busch has a whopping five career Sprint Cup wins, followed by Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Busch also has a win to his credit. How about the last-chance race at Richmond? Well, in addition to last April’s victory three, Busch has four career wins in all and an astounding 4.7 average finish at the .75-mile short track.
Thus, with a half-dozen of their best racetracks next up on the schedule and a Chase berth at stake, Busch and the entire M&M’s team head to the Pocono Mountains not with their recent seven-race bad luck streak on their minds, but rather Toyota Motor Company’s uplifting tagline: Moving Forward.