In 2011, Tony Stewart went on an incredible run at the end of the season that eventually netted him the NASCAR Cup Series title. The eventual champion won five of the final ten races during the Chase for the Championship to edge out Carl Edwards in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and earn the accolades for what would be his final title.
Stewart entered the ten-race run that would determine the series champion ranking ninth in the overall standings. The then 40-year-old driver had not won a race through the first 26 events of the season and had led only 340 combined laps with almost half of those coming in a single race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There was little that would have caused anyone to believe the Rushville, Indiana native could actually challenge for a third Cup championship.
But as noted above, Stewart not only challenged for the title, he won it.
Coming into the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs there is a somewhat similar scenario that could potentially play out. Like Stewart, Kyle Busch has two championships to his credit coming into the final ten-race stretch run. And very much like Stewart, Busch barely made the final cut after having not scored a win through 26 races. Further, Busch currently ranks 14th in the standings and has led only 245 laps up to this point in the campaign.
While a run that could earn Busch another trophy at the end of the night in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, the same could have been said of Stewart’s seemingly unlikely run in 2011.
Going into those final races nine years ago, no one would have doubted that Stewart had the ability to win races even though his team had not really shown such up to that point. With that said, would anyone doubt that Busch could string together wins in each segment of these upcoming races that would keep advancing him from round to round even though he has not necessarily shown that ability so far?
Of the ten tracks remaining on the schedule, the Las Vegas driver has earned at least one win on all but the Charlotte Roval. As a matter of fact, some of the remaining venues are among the 35-year-old’s best as he has garnered eight career wins at Bristol, six at Richmond, and three each at Texas and Phoenix. There is no doubt the ability is there with this driver and the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota team.
So far in 2020, Kyle Busch has suffered from a severe case of bad luck. If that changes in the near future, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion could find himself in contention for a third title in much the same way Tony Stewart did back in 2011.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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