Melillo’s Mind: Toyota Owners 400 recap;
Thoughts on history, and quarterly recap
By Justin Melillo
April 24, 2018
For the second time in 2018, a driver has won three-in-a-row. This time, it’s Kyle Busch, who won in one of the most improbable scenarios this weekend at Richmond Raceway.
Busch qualified 32nd, missing the second round of qualifying, and ultimately putting him in a hole that he’s never been able to overcome in his career, that is, before Saturday night.
“I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (Busch’s crew chief) and my guys and the pit crew tonight,” Busch said. “They won this race for us. They got us off pit road first those last two times that we came down for tires and got us where we needed to be.”
Off the get go, Busch was making incredible passes on people, and was in the top 10 before long. Joey Logano was the man to beat, winning both stages, but Busch was in pursuit.
Logano’s car faded as the race continued past the second stage, and it seemed like a three way race between Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr. and the other guy to three-peat this season, Kevin Harvick.
And then the cautions came, with Kyle Busch lurking in fourth position. He gained a spot in the pits, then green followed by caution. Another caution, another pit, another position.
Then the restart, and Kyle Busch is leading all of a sudden, pulling away from every dominant car through the first 370 laps. Another caution, but that doesn’t stop the candy man, and he went on to win his 187th career NASCAR national series race, the 46th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
“It’s definitely cool we’ve won three in a row,” Busch said. “We did it a couple years ago and now I don’t know if you can shoot for four in a row. It’s hard to go to Talladega with that much of a winning streak and think that you can go to victory lane, but we’re going to go there anyway and give it a shot. We’ll see what we can do.”
KYLE IS CLOSING IN ON HIS OWN VERSION OF “200”
At 187 total victories spanning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (50), the NASCAR XFINITY Series (91) and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (46), Kyle Busch is going to hit the 200 win mark in his own way.
When Richard Petty did it, in only the Cup Series, it was a different era, and nothing can be taken away from that.
It is near impossible to do it in this day and age, with the level of competition and the way each race plays out, that anyone could even break 100 wins. Jeff Gordon was one of the most dominant drivers in the late 90’s, and even he couldn’t break 100 wins.
Taking a look at “The King”, he raced 1184 Cup Series races over 35 years, and won 200 times, for a winning percentage of 16.89%. Kyle Busch has raced a combined 953 races in the top-three series over 18 years, and at 187 victories combined, has a career winning percentage of 19.62%.
I’m not going to sit here and say that Kyle Busch is the next Richard Petty, but I cannot dismiss that the way that Busch is heading to his 200 wins isn’t remarkable in it’s own way. Busch is only 33 years old. That is 21 years younger than when Petty retired, at 54 years old.
EVEN IF BUSCH RETIRES AT 40, that will give him a solid six to seven more seasons of winning 13 more races, and with how hot Busch has been lately, that could happen by the end of next year.
I guess what I’m saying is that I expect Kyle Busch to dwarf Richard Petty in total wins over his career, and that is something that will ultimately be celebrated one day, not looked down upon as many do in this day and age.
Busch is a special talent, and had the resources to race as many races as he possibly could up to this point. I wasn’t around when Richard Petty drove, but isn’t that similar to what the King did? Race as much as possible, and be good at it?
Kyle Busch won’t be the king, but he will be remembered as an all-time great.
FIRST QUARTER REPORT CARD
We are nine races into the 36 race season, and as they run, Kyle Busch leads Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski in the top five in the driver’s standings.
2017 champion Martin Truex, Jr. sits seventh, while seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson rides in 15th, one spot ahead of his rookie teammate William Byron and two spots behind one of his other teammates, Alex Bowman.
Busch and Harvick have three wins a piece, while Truex, Jr., Bowyer, and Austin Dillon have one win a piece, with Dillon sitting 14th in the points.
It has been a year of dominance, and what I mean by that is that when you’re hot, you’re unstoppable. Harvick had Atlanta, Vegas, and Phoenix under control, and then he lost his mojo at Fontana. Busch picked up where he left off, with a third place at Fontana, second at Martinsville, and then three straight since Texas.
Kyle Busch is currently the man to beat, as he’s on top of the world in more ways than one. I would stick Harvick second still, as he could have won Richmond and started a new streak. Truex, Jr. is my third place driver, and even though his luck isn’t where it was last year, he’s still up front and leading a lot.
After those three, I’d put Bowyer, just solely on the fact that he’s been able to win and has been in contention to win on a couple of occasions this season.
Then I’d put a three way tie for fifth with all three Team Penske drivers, Keselowski, Logano, and Ryan Blaney. They haven’t won yet, but they’ve been in contention to win multiple races this season.
Going forward, it seems that Hendrick Motorsports have started to turn the corner, at least a little bit. Only Chase Elliott, in 20th, sits outside of the playoffs at this point, but that is due to two P1 level penalties levied against his No. 9 team.
Elliott came home second at Richmond, and overall, it just seemed like the whole team had more speed this weekend and last weekend at Bristol. Hopefully, it’s not just a short track thing.
It’s Talladega week, baby!
The NASCAR XFINITY Series is up first, Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET. It’s another Dash 4 Cash race, so there will be no Cup Series regulars once again.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be run on Sunday afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. ET.
It’s insanely difficult to make picks at SuperSpeedway races, but I’ll give it my best.
In XFINITY, I think Elliott Sadler will break through and get his first win of the season. He has the experience and the talent as opposed to the many younger drivers that will be in the field.
In Cup, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will be the cream of the crop. Ryan Blaney and Paul Menard will be there too, but only to help keep either of those two ahead of the field. It will come down to the last lap and some fighting amongst teammates, but SOMEHOW Kyle Busch pulls by them all and wins his fourth straight.
Dominic Aragon/TRE Kyle Andrews/TRE Joshua A. Hill/TRE Jeremy Thompson/TRE
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.