The only active driver to hold more than one NASCAR Cup Series title, Kyle Busch acknowledges the challenges he faces in trying to win a third, given the strength of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets this year.
Though Busch has advanced to the Championship 4 race in five of the seven Playoffs conducted under the elimination format, he sees no margin for error for his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team in this year‘s postseason run.
“The Hendrick guys, obviously they‘re strong,” Busch said. “Look, we‘ve had our years of dominance where you guys have probably asked those guys, ‘Where are those guys beating you—why is Toyota better?‘
“I get it, but it‘s just a thing where we‘ve got to work hard with what we‘ve got. Unfortunately, we feel as though we have to be perfect in order to be able to compete with them. They don‘t have to be perfect, and they‘re still going to be fast. We wouldn‘t be close if we weren‘t perfect.
“That lends itself to a much tighter box that we‘ve got to race in.”
JGR teammate Christopher Bell enters the playoffs tied for 12th in the standings, sporting the five playoff points he earned by winning the second race of the season at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.
Accordingly, Bell is a long shot to win the championship in his sophomore season—and his first in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. But Bell remains undeterred by his underdog status.
“You should bet on me because the tracks in the playoffs are all really good race tracks for us,” Bell said. “That‘s number one. Number two, we‘ve definitely been getting better over the course of the season. We haven‘t put it all together yet to be a championship-caliber team, but I think we‘re definitely headed in that direction.
“Looking at Round 1 of the playoffs, that should be a really, really good round for us. Darlington, Richmond, Bristol—we‘ve been to two of those race tracks so far this year, and they‘ve been two of our best races this year, and Bristol‘s a great race track for Joe Gibbs Racing and a great race track for me.
“Looking forward, then we have the Charlotte Roval (cutoff race in the Round of 12), a road course that we should be extremely strong at. Then Texas, I almost won at Texas last year in the Cup Series. I think the path is there. We just have to see if we can execute and continue to get better.”