This was going to be the race weekend that set the barometer for Kyle Busch. The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion had yet to win this year. In fact, other than his win in the season finale last year at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch hasn’t won in over a year.
If you take his last 36 starts now, a full Cup season, he’s won just once.
Part of that is the lack of practice time this year. Ever since the COVID-19 break ended, NASCAR has eliminated the use of practice. For Busch, his cars aren’t evolving during a race like he would have hoped and that’s because they’re chasing his No. 18 Toyota all day. In the past, they could get it dialed in during the practice sessions and hit the ground running.
This weekend at Pocono, well, it would tell us a lot.
Busch, had three wins in his last five Pocono starts. Just getting one win in the doubleheader weekend would eliminate any doubts.
But, after Day 1, the doubts are there. Busch, did finish fifth in Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325, his seventh top 10 in-a-row on the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle and his seventh on the season, the problem is, he never really as much of a factor.
Busch, was fourth and eighth respectively in the two stages and failed to lead a single lap. He’s only led 128 laps all year, 100 of them coming earlier this month in Bristol.
“Our M&M’s Mini Toyota Camry was pretty decent,” Busch said of his top five finish. “We had some speed and there were laps that I could run with the 11 (Denny Hamlin), but the 11 could just do it lap after lap after lap where I was pushing everything I had to keep up with him there. I just couldn’t do it.
“I would make the tires mad and would start to fall back. We were just a little tight all day. We really fought tight early on, but we made some really good adjustments and got it a lot closer and got it a lot better.
“Our strategy there worked out to get us in the top-five, that was about all we could ask for out of today. We got some really good ideas for tomorrow hopefully that will help us out and hopefully get us some speed so we can keep up with those front guys.”
While he’s had some solid finishes this season, he’s always admitted after them that they punched above their weight too.
Sunday, will tell us a lot about Busch because he essentially got 325 miles of practice on Saturday.