Will Kyle Busch recapture his Bristol magic?


By Taylor Goins
April 21, 2017

BRISTOL, Tenn.—Among active drivers, Kyle Busch could be considered the king of Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tied with his brother with five victories in NASCAR’s premier series at the half-mile Tennessee track known as “The Last Great Colosseum,” the younger Busch brother has dominated the scene in Thunder Valley throughout his career.

When you ask someone for their opinion on who will win at Bristol, there’s a good chance that the answer you will hear is: Kyle Busch.

However, it has largely slipped under the radar that Kyle Busch isn’t the same at Bristol anymore. In fact, Bristol itself isn’t even the same anymore.

In the summer of 2012, Bristol Motor Speedway underwent a dramatic track reconfiguration where the progressive banking was altered in order to facilitate multi-groove racing. Since this reconfiguration, Busch’s dominance at Bristol has stalled.

Under Bristol’s previous configuration, Busch won five times between 2006 and 2012. Even when he didn’t reach victory lane, Busch was still stellar, as he posted an average finish of 7.5 and led a total of 1,375 laps.

Once the racing surface at Bristol was modified in summer 2012, though, his fortunes took a turn for the worse.

In the eight Cup races since then, he has yet to reach victory lane. His average finish has dropped to 21.13 and he has only led 584 laps.

The stats include failing to finish three times.

The semi-recent drop-off in results is not lost on Busch, though. Earlier this week, Busch said, “It’s been kind of frustrating a little bit for me on the Cup side since the [track surface] grind and I haven't figured that out all the way, yet.

“We’ve had fast racecars the last several times there, but different things have happened that have kept us from being able to finish those races off and win another one. I definitely look forward to this weekend. We’re hoping things will fall in place this weekend with our M&M'S Camry and we get to victory lane there again.”

All is not gloom and doom for the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, however. Competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series at Bristol since the 2012 reconfiguration, Busch has captured a total of five victories (with four of those coming in the XFINITY Series).

He has shown that he can drive the “new” Bristol well in Cup, too, as he has qualified in the top-five the last four races.

For a driver who is as skilled and versatile in a race car as Kyle Busch, it would be a mistake to count him out anywhere, especially at the track where he leads all active Cup drivers in victories.

It should be noted that Busch was extremely strong in the only other short track race in 2017, finishing second place at Martinsville and leading over half of the race (274 laps).

Plus, Busch led 256 laps in the most recent race at Bristol and appeared to be a challenger for victory lane before retiring due to an accident.

Therefore, it seems that the old adage must be true: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” If you were to ask someone for their opinion on who will win at Bristol, and they reply with “Kyle Busch,” they very may well be correct.

SOURCES
Racing-Reference.info

IMAGES
Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts
Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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