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Riding momentum, Busch comes to BMS as favorite

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 12, 2018 at 9:06 PM

Like it wasn't hard enough already to beat Kyle Busch at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Now the rest of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series field has to deal with the fact the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver is coming into this Sunday's Food City 500 fresh off a win at Texas. It virtually assures that Busch will qualify for this year's playoffs, and that he can just go all-out for another win at Bristol, where he swept Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series races last August.

"It means a lot. It just kind of solidifies your playoffs and solidifies us in being the points leader and the way we've been running this year," Busch said about his Texas win. "My guys were just so good. I can't say enough about everybody on my team and you know, we've just got everything clicking right now."

Busch has top-three finishes in his last five races. The strong start to this year comes after he finished 2017 on a tear, barely missing out on winning his second Cup Series title, coming up just short to Martin Truex Jr. in the final race of the season at Homestead.

He rarely comes up short at Bristol, where the 32-year-old Las Vegas racer leads all active drivers with six Cup Series wins. His 2,116 laps led around the high-banked, .533-mile oval is over twice that of his brother, Kurt, who ranks second among active drivers.

Overall, he has a track record 20 wins in the three national series at Bristol, and his sweeps of all three series' races in 2010 and last year are the only times in NASCAR history that's been done. Now, he's in a situation where he has full confidence in himself, his equipment and his team, led by crew chief Adam Stevens.

"Adam does a great job. He leads these guys really, really well," Busch said. "We all communicate so well and we do what we need to do inside the hauler to make sure that we have a good race car and get good feedback and things like that to be able to have fast race cars on race day."

GIBBS POWER

Busch's main competition could come within his own Joe Gibbs Racing organization.

Last year, Busch passed Erik Jones for the lead with 55 laps to go for the race win, and now Jones is in the No. 20 Toyota which Matt Kenseth drove to a fourth-place finish in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

In fact, Toyotas took the top four positions in that race with Denny Hamlin finishing third.

But, Busch is clearly who the other drivers look to as the favorite. Busch has 44 career Cup Series wins, tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 16th on the all-time win list.

Kyle Larson tweeted after last August's performance, "Love him or hate him, I feel he's the most talented all-around driver I will ever witness in my lifetime."

Jones added, "He's really on it and has it figured out. It's really impressive."

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