BRISTOL, Tenn. — To all the NASCAR fans who hate Kyle Busch (and certainly there are legions of them out there, booing their televisions every time he takes the lead), a quick message for you:
Boy, are y’all in for a treat with this one.
Busch won his second consecutive Cup Series race Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway, this time by bumping Kyle Larson out of the lead with about five laps left. Larson got loose in the subsequent corner, drifted just a little bit away, and boom, Busch was gone.
“(Larson) slipped up a few times and was able to give me that opportunity to get there, and we made the most of it,” Busch said after the race. “When it comes down to the end, it’s crunch time. You’ve got to go.”
Normally this is where we’d point out how Busch’s victory catapults him to the top of the Cup Series points standings. Except, he’s already there. In fact, Busch has been for three weeks now, dating back to even before he won two straight races.
And that’s not even the scariest part of the current stretch Busch is on.
It’s that, from week to week, he’s still getting better. He’s more aggressive. More flexible, more willing to improvise.
So far, that is directly correlating to more wins.
Now here’s the scary part: That won’t be stopping anytime soon.
“It’s just working phenomenally together,” Busch said of everyone on his No. 18 team. “I just feel like we’re clicking on all eight cylinders right now.
“That’s just a great thing to have, and it gives you a lot of confidence when you can go to the racetrack with these guys.”
Jimmie Johnson was asked after his third-place finish at Bristol whether or not there’s any truth behind the idea of momentum sports. You know, the idea that if Cam Newton scores three touchdowns in one game, will it actually carry over to the next week?
Same goes for NASCAR. Johnson, who has had an objectively down season so far in 2018, said that yes, one good race can turn into another.
So what does that mean for Busch, who had (essentially) all good races?
In the short run, that he has to be among the favorites to win at Richmond next week. Even if Richmond wasn’t one of Busch’s favorite and best tracks — he averages about a seventh-place finish there, and has won four times — his momentum would help him. In this case? It’s like throwing a bucket of lighter fluid on a bonfire and seeing just how overpowering it can get.
At this point in the year, that’s an apt comparison for Busch. He tore through last season, just barely missed out on winning his second Cup championship, and then shot to the top of the points standings as soon as we got a few races in the books.
The man has been a heat-seeking missile in 2018. He showed Monday when he love-tapped the lead away from Larson that he’s willing to bump and race physically, and if he’s going to get where he’s clearly headed this season, there figures to be more of that. Maybe even as early as next weekend.
When asked if he thought he could win at Richmond next week, Busch said, “Yeah, I’d like to think so.”
So fans, keep booing him. Even in a rain-depleted crowd at Bristol, there were stragglers booing Busch while he captured the checkered flag.
But know this — his excellence this year has already been well-documented. Heck, he could win his third straight race next week, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
And the scariest part of it all, for Kyle Busch haters and the rest of the NASCAR drivers trying to slow him down?
He’s still getting better.