STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Column by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Sarah Crabill/Getty Images North America photo —
A broken leg, the birth of a baby boy and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
That sums up Kyle Busch’s 2015 in a nutshell.
There was something different about the 30-year-old driver during this year’s run up to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Busch won four times upon his return to the Cup Series in May after breaking his leg and foot in a violent crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona in February, leading many to believe this might be the year that he shook off his prior bad luck and truly contended for the big trophy at last.
And it was.
The old Kyle Busch Chase collapses of the past were no more. He started off this year’s Chase by leading the most laps (121) and scoring a ninth-place finish in the Chicagoland opener. A flat tire at Loudon put him in a small hole, but the No. 18 team dug themselves right out of it the next week at Dover. Busch had nothing for eventual race winner Kevin Harvick, but the runner-up finish was good enough to advance into the Contender Round and see a six-time champ in Jimmie Johnson miss the cut.
The No. 18 team once again fell behind on the cusp of a 20th-place finish at Charlotte after starting second and leading four laps. Historically, Kansas Speedway had never been Kyle Busch’s best track, with no wins in the Cup Series there to his name, but muddled through to stay alive amidst Chasers Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano getting into it late in the race, sending Kenseth spinning and Logano on to victory. Busch quietly got into the Eliminator Round with an 11th-place finish after a Talladega wreck-fest at the end of the event, leaving JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth out of the Chase.
Then Martinsville happened.
Joey Logano’s Chase chances spiraled downhill after Kenseth paid him back, while Jeff Gordon went on to win. Jimmie Johnson’s Texas victory locked out another Chaser from moving on in Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski, and Hendrick Motorsports completed the Eliminator Round sweep with Dale Earnhardt Jr. claiming the honors in a rain-shortened Phoenix affair.
All the while, Busch reeled in three top-five finishes to become one of the Championship 4 and have a chance at claiming his first Cup title.
And once the green flag flew on the season finale at Homestead, one thing was clear. Busch ran highest among the Chasers throughout the night and led 41 laps, his first laps led in Cup competition at the track in three years.
During the race’s final run, he and Harvick were five seconds apart before the caution flew with 10 laps to go for a piece of sheet metal on the front stretch.
The No. 18 team got Busch second off pit road and he restarted alongside Brad Keselowski. The 2012 Cup champ took the inside, Busch got the outside, and the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry ran the best seven laps of his Cup career.
Busch can no longer say he hasn’t won a Chase race. There’s no bigger way to win his first one than by clinching a championship in the process.
He overcame adversity; he did everything he had to do in half the time his competitors had and he performed at the highest level when it mattered most to take home the ultimate prize.
So for all you so-called “haters” out there that say Kyle Busch doesn’t deserve his Cup championship because he missed the first 11 races of the season due to circumstances outside his control, my response to you is simple: be quiet.
Busch played by the same rules everyone else had, in addition to overcoming the ultimate trial, and won.
In my book, there’s no better description of a deserving champion than that.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Kyle Magda is Race Chaser Online’s Associate Editor and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 22-year-old currently studies print journalism at Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
Email Kyle at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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