Kyle Busch scored his eighth top-five finish on Sunday at Texas, but the defending Cup champion remains 0-18 for the season in the win column.
Busch isn’t the only former champion without a win in 2020. Nor is he the only former Kansas Speedway winner looking to rekindle a little magic as the NASCAR Cup tour returns to the heartland on Thursday. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman have all celebrated in Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile track but are currently suffering winless streaks.
But it’s safe to say those three veterans are in the twilight of their careers, while Busch, 35, is in his prime.
And unlike Johnson and Kenseth, who each have multiple Kansas wins, Busch has maintained a love-hate relationship with the track. However, in his last 10 starts—and since scoring his first win in 2016—Busch has just one finish outside the top 10.
Needless to say, his attitude towards the track has changed dramatically over the last five seasons.
“Even the last few times before we won there, we had some really strong runs,” Busch said. “We finished in the top five, I think, six races in a row, and we have also been in the top 10 a lot, so it’s a place where we’ve really picked it up.
“We seemed to have gotten a setup or ahold of that place, I’d say, and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around, and we can continue our strong runs and our fast pace of being able to have a shot to win.”
A win would go along way to getting the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team back on track. Since crew chief Adam Stevens was aligned with Busch in 2015, the pair has won 27 races in 182 starts. They’ve won two titles and advanced to the Championship 4 finale in all five seasons.
With eight races remaining in the regular season, Busch currently sits 10th in the standings and has yet to win a Playoff point. Stevens acknowledges a lack of practice has hampered their progress since the sport’s return during the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR announced earlier this week that practice and qualifying has been eliminated for the remainder of the 2020 season.
“It’s tough,” Stevens said Wednesday on SiriusXM Radio. “So many things that we work on during the weekend are addressed in the first two-to-three runs of practice. I’m not whining here. It’s the same for every single team—not just me. It’s up to us to make the most of it.”
Still, Stevens was encouraged by the team’s fourth-place run at Texas Motor Speedway, particularly after the No. 18 Toyota was involved in a mid-race melee which could have been catastrophic.
“It hasn’t been too kind to us at the racetrack here recently; we’ve been struggling some,” Stevens added. “Sprinkled in there some good runs, for sure. But this specific tire combination that we run at Kentucky and Vegas has really just left us befuddled.
“To struggle at Kentucky, and then to come back the very next week and kind of right the ship, we felt like, and really be able to address a couple of the issues we’ve been having and make a little bit of progress is something we can hang our hats on and maybe build on a little bit.”