When Kyle Busch decides to retire from competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, there will be very few pages in the record book of the sport that you will not be reading his name.
Wins and championships will dot his resume’ but for now it will not contain a listing where he has clinched back-to-back series titles. Coming on the heels of his second series title, the 2020 season will be one that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver would quickly like to put behind him.
Busch entered Sunday’s race on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway one spot below the cutoff line with a 21 point deficit to make up if he wanted to advance to the Round of 8 this weekend at Kansas with his title hopes still alive.
To drive his way back into the list of eight drivers that would be advancing at the race’s end, he would not only have to race the rest of the field but also the weather that saw the series for the first time in the modern era begin a race on Goodyear rain tires.
It was not going to be an easy path for Busch to get above the cutoff line as he suffered damage after a collision with Clint Bowyer during the middle of the race but with some solid work by his pit crew he was able to work his way back up to the front.
He and crew chief Adam Stevens decided to stay out during a late race caution but once the race restarted his tires which already had 20 laps on them were no match for the cars that pitted for tires. He actually led the race at one point but his day ended with him in 30th after he had to come in for fuel on the next to the last lap.
Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola joined Busch as the four drives that were eliminated which now leaves eight drivers advancing to the Round of 8 that will feature races at Kansas, Texas and Martinsville.
Kansas and Texas are mile and a half tracks with Martinsville’s flat half-mile paperclip shaped layout figuring to be the wild card race of the three which also happens to be the elimination race of the Round.
The eight remaining drivers that will be advancing will all have their points reset to 4,000 with bonus points being added for both race and stage wins accumulated throughout the season.
Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with a 4,067 which earns him a staggering 55-point lead ahead of Joey Logano (-5 behind 4th) who will start the Round in the first cutoff position in fifth place. Denny Hamlin is in second with 4,054 points followed by Brad Keselowski (4,035) and Chase Elliott (4,027). Martin Truex Jr. (-10), Alex Bowman (-18) and Kurt Busch (-21) fills out the field of drivers in the Round of 8 but like every driver still alive in the playoff hunt, being one of the four drivers that will advance to the Championship race at Phoenix is just one trip to victory lane away.
Busch punched his ticket to this round with a win and it could be that only one driver will advance on their points if three different playoff drivers capture a checkered flag over the next three weekends.
PIT NOTES: Chase Elliott’s win Sunday on the Roval at Charlotte was his fourth consecutive road course trip to victory lane. His name is now being mentioned with the likes of Jeff Gordon who won six consecutive road course races as being one of the best to ever race on a road course.
While the win advances him into the Round of 8, it is hard to not look at the prospects of the Hendrick Motorsports driver moving forward in 2021. Next season there will be a total of six road course races on the 36-race schedule and he will be the favorite at every one of them. Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International were the only two road courses on the schedule for years until the addition of Charlotte’s Roval.
Next season the series will also be making both right and left hand turns at Circuit of the Americas, Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.