Lately, Kyle Busch seems to be in the midst of a free fall – or so it seems.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has had a string of uncommon poor finishes as of late and, as a result, he has slipped in the point standings.
It would not appear he’s in any danger of not making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Coming into this weekend’s race at Bristol, he was 15th in points – but seeded eighth in the grid because of a victory.
That aside, what’s happened lately is not Busch’s style, not by a long shot.
Let’s go back to Sonoma in June, eight races ago.
Since that time Busch has finished 25th or worse five times.
Remarkably, in the additional three races he has three runnerup finishes, at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis.
But in the last three races, well, he’s hardly been noticed. He finished 42nd at Pocono, 40th at Watkins Glen and 39th at Michigan.
He once stood sixth in points after Indy. Now, as mentioned, he’s 15th.
You understand, of course, that little of what has happened is the fault of Busch or his team – for the most part, anyway.
It’s been a series of unfortunate mishaps, such as at Michigan, where he lasted just five laps before a crash sent him into the garage for repairs and an ultimate 39th-place finish.
These types of things happen to every NASCAR team at some point, perhaps more often to some than others.
Nevertheless, the timing does not suit Busch, not to mention much of anything else that’s happened.
“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s been a struggle. At Pocono we had an engine deal and then we got behind at the Glen with a fueling issue and crashed.
“Then at Michigan we were good on the first couple of laps on the bottom of the track. I got greedy, took it to the outside and crashed.”
Busch may well think that he can solve his problems at Bristol – as well he should.
At the 0.533-mile track he has 16 NASCAR series victories, five in Sprint Cup, seven in the Nationwide Series and four in the Camping World Truck Series.
In 2010 he became the first driver to sweep all three series races at one track.
But that won’t happen this year. He won the pole for the Aug. 20 truck race and led three times for 81 of 200 laps. He suffered a cut tire late in the event and finished 24th.
He had his chance at redemption in the Nationwide Series race on Aug. 22 and has another in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Aug. 23.
“When they changed the track to this current surface in 2007, I just really took to it right away,” Busch said. “I really liked it and I’ve been fast there, but also I’ve had great race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It’s just a fun race track no matter what series I’m running there.
“You make one mistake, or someone else makes one mistake, that’s it. We’re hoping things will fall in place this weekend and we get to victory lane.”
That would be a welcome change. Again, although Busch is safely in the Chase, there’s no doubt he would like to see overall performance – not to mention his luck – change.
“I feel like our cars have been mostly competitive,” he said. “They have not been 30th-place cars or anything like that.
“We just haven’t been able to finish.”
So far, through one event at Bristol that seems to remain unchanged.
But it ain’t over yet.