INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Busch wrapped up his second straight regular season championship last week at Darlington Raceway with a third-place finish and another stage win. He had been battling Team Penske driver Joey Logano for that top position all season, finally taking it back for good four races ago after the Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course race.
Busch has led the standings for 14 of the 25 weeks – most among drivers this season – and was never ranked lower than fourth, where he spent one week after the race in his native Las Vegas. He has a series-best 10 stage victories.
The title gives the four-time winner an extra 15 Playoff points for the postseason, which begins next week in Vegas.
“Obviously we set out to do that here a few weeks back,’’ Busch said of his regular season championship. “We knew when he [Logano] passed us and got the lead from us that it was going to be hard to get it back. But fortunately, we went back into stage racing a little bit more and tried to get some of the stage points and that helped us.’’
The bad news for Busch’s competition is that this week’s regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been an especially successful venue for the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion of late. He has won the last three pole positions and two of the last four Brickyard 400s. In fact, Busch (2015-16) and Jimmie Johnson (2008-09) are the only drivers in history to win back-to-back races at the historic 2.5-mile facility.
Busch has an impressive 11 top-10 finishes in 14 Indianapolis races, second only to Kevin Harvick’s 12, including seven straight from 2010-2016. He led a record 149 of 170 laps – from pole position – en route to his dominating 2016 win, one of only five times in the race’s 25-year history a driver has led at least 100 laps.
With the regular season title in hand, a series-best 1,166 laps led and seven top-10 finishes in the last 10 races, Busch is in good form as the Playoffs approach. But his last victory was 11 races ago during the first visit to Pocono, and he’s hungry for another win.