NASCAR fans have likely become accustomed to Kyle Busch’s domination at short tracks such as Bristol Motor Speedway, where he has a combined 22 victories in NASCAR’s three national series. But his recent work at the 2.5-mile Pocono (Pa.) Raceway – site of Sunday’s Gander RV 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) has been mighty impressive too.
Busch is not only the defending race winner but has won three of the last four races at the Pocono track, including the June race this season. In fact, a victory on Sunday would make him just the third driver in history to win three consecutive races at “The Tricky Triangle” – joining an esteemed list that includes NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (1982-83) and the late Tim Richmond (1986-87).
A victory in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would also make him only the eighth driver ever to sweep a season’s races at Pocono, joining Jimmie Johnson (2004) and Denny Hamlin (2006) as the only active drivers on that list.
But Busch’s intentions this week are more fundamental than a place in history. It’s been seven weeks since his last Victory Lane celebration – which, coincidentally, happened at Pocono – and he’d like to win again.
Busch enters the race a mere three-points behind championship leader Joey Logano with six races remaining before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs begin. With his four wins, Busch is safely in that 16-driver field, but he’d love to also earn the bonus points awarded to the regular season champion.
As it stands, Busch has led the most laps (959) of any driver this season – by a substantial margin. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, a three-race winner, is next on the list with 790 laps out front. In addition to Busch’s four victories, he has three runner-up finishes, the most recent runner-up showing at Kentucky two weeks ago. He has 17 top-10s through the 20 races to date.
Busch’s recent work at Pocono, in particular, has set the Monster Energy Series standard. He’s led the most laps in each of his three race wins and in 2017 won the race from the pole position. He’s finished top-10 in the last six races and led laps in the last eight. The lap total during just the last eight races (341) is 84.4 percent of his career laps led total (404) at Pocono.
“Trying to pass people is the trickiest part because it’s so finicky there after getting your car set-up to run by yourself in practice, but also getting it good for the traffic during the race and being able to out-corner guys out there,’’ Busch explained. “Having a lot of horsepower is important there, as well. Hoping we can have all of those things go right for us this week with our Skittles Toyota.’’