Bristol, Tenn. — Kyle Busch won’t get his third consecutive NASCAR weekend sweep, but he’s savoring his current success.
How long it continues depends on how the defending Sprint Cup Series champion beats back an impressive list of challengers at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch will start fifth Sunday in the 500-lap Cup race on the half-mile track, where he and brother Kurt have the most wins among active drivers with five each. He’s among four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers starting in the top five, with pole winner Carl Edwards alongside Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin fourth.
It’s not like starting position matters to Busch, who leads the Cup standings by six points over Jimmie Johnson.
“It doesn’t matter; long race, we’ll be fine,” Busch said after qualifying Friday.
Busch swept Martinsville and Texas to become the first driver to accomplish the feat since Harry Gant went back-to-back at Richmond and Dover in 1991. His four wins have come across NASCAR’s three national series.
He fell just short of getting the Xfinity Series victory needed in his quest for a three in a row, finishing second to Erik Jones on Saturday after starting fifth. A third straight Cup win remains possible for Busch, who achieved the feat last summer.
In 32 Cup races since he returned last May from injury, Busch has seven wins, 18 top-5s and 22 top-10s with 1,255 laps led.
That total includes six top-5s this season, a strong carryover from last year’s title run. The successful stretch has Busch grateful and reflective, especially since he missed last season’s first 11 races recovering from leg and foot injuries sustained in an Xfinity Series wreck at Daytona.
“Missing what I missed last year and being out of the race car as long as I was, I think I’ve certainly given fact to the matter that I love racing,” said Busch, who turns 31 on May 2.
“There were never very many thoughts that crossed my mind that I did not want to come back. This is what it’s all about for me. … You want to win them all, but you know you’re going to lose a heck of a lot more than you win. We just have to stay consistent through what we’re doing right now.”
His mission on Sunday is holding off charges from JGR teammates, all of whom have Bristol Cup wins.
Edwards (three) earned his second straight pole on Friday and ran seventh last week at Texas. Kenseth is the defending race winner and has earned two of his four Bristol victories in the past five Bristol events at the track. Hamlin won here in August 2012 and has nine top-10s in 20 starts.
In spite of those impressive credentials, Edwards said Busch’s run creates a hurdle.
“The good part about Kyle’s success now is that I’m on his team so I can see what he’s doing,” he said, joking. “I can talk to him about it, but I don’t know that there’s a specific thing you do. I just think sometimes its working and things go your way and you have to be fast, too.”
For his part Busch said he’s doing nothing different from any other part of his career. His No. 18 Toyota Camry has indeed been fast, and he suggested that circumstances might be falling his way a little more than usual.
Whatever the reason, Busch won’t question why things are clicking. His objective is riding the momentum as long as possible.
“I feel like we can go each and every week and have a legitimate chance to win,” he said, “which is probably the first time in my career that I’ve had that. So, it’s pretty good.”