Kyle Busch has been wanting to forget 2020 as the pandemic season has not proved to be in his favor. The lack of practice and testing sure seemed to hurt him the most. But he overcame all of that and put teammate Martin Truex, Jr. in a must win situation in the process.
Kyle led a race high 90 laps and at one point, was 7 seconds up on Truex. Busch pitted before everyone else and put himself in a dicey fuel window. His crew chief coaxed him to save fuel through the end of Stage 2 and the entire green flag run to the checkers. Getting Busch to dial it back when all he wanted to do was mash it and go was as much a winning factor as Busch’s driving a very fast race car.
The win put the onus on the bottom four drivers to win at Martinsville in order to make the final stand at Phoenix. Aside from Chase Elliott, they all finished in the Top 10 but that just isn’t going to cut it when those drivers ahead of you did the same – plus, Top 10s were taken up by Christopher Bell (P3), Ryan Blaney (P4) and Matt DiBenedetto (P8).
Kurt Busch (8th, -98) ended P7 but is basically two races behind in points. He must win this week at a track where he has only three Top 10s in the last seven races. Stick a fork in KuBu.
Martin Truex, Jr. (7th, -53) ran P2 to Kyle Busch but he is one whole race behind and finds himself in a must win at Martinsville. On the upside, he has won the last two races at Martinsville.
Chase Elliott (6th, -42) had to pit twice in Stage two to fix a tire that was coming apart. That put him a lap down finishing P20. He is also in a must win situation at a track with 3 Top 5 finishes and a best of second in the last seven races. Not inspiring for a great season to date.
Alex Bowman (5th, -42) got a nice P5 but that doesn’t mean much when the other 4 drivers ahead of you amassed stage points all season long to pad races like this when they didn’t run as well. Stick a fork in Bowman.
On the upside, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are just average at Martinsville. But you have to battle Team Penske in this final race as well and Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are recent winners.
Martinsville looks to favor MTJ, Keselowski (2019 winner) and Logano (2018 winner). Add to that Kyle Busch last won here in 2017 and has 2 wins and 16 Top 5s overall at Martinsville and he may turn out to be a player on Sunday.
Those numbers don’t bode well for the bottom four drivers. Those are a LOT of points to make up to leapfrog those in front of you without an early DNF affecting one of them. But this is Martinsville….
Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up.
(Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media / Sean Gardner / Getty Images)