Is Kyle Busch the new championship favorite?

His performance in the first round of the playoffs would certainly suggest it.

In the first three races, he started first, first and second. After a slow start at Chicagoland, where he finished 15th in part due to issues on pit road, Busch followed that with consecutive victories at New Hampshire and Dover.

The 10 additional playoff points Busch gained from those victories – which he can use in Round 2 – are almost as important as the wins themselves.

But not even Busch is buying into the fact that he has captured ‘favorite’ status.

At least not yet.

Asked following his win at Dover if he was now the championship favorite, Busch answered with an emphatic, “No.”

“There's a lot of racing to go,” he said. “You know, I think week to week, you can probably change your favorite. Early on the first third of (Sunday’s) race I probably would have said (Kyle) Larson is your new championship favorite, but you've got to let these things play out.

“I don't know that there's necessarily a favorite. Maybe it closes our gap that (Martin Truex Jr.) had on us a little bit.”

Busch said he still thinks the order of top teams right now are Truex, his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team and Larson.

“There's different distances between us each and every week, I guess, depending on how we run and what all kind of goes on,” he said. “So, it's all about getting the stars to align and doing your job and having everything go your way.”

Truex has been no slouch in Round 1.

He started third, fifth and first in the first three races and finished first, fifth and fourth. Truex still enters Round 2 with a series-leading 59 playoff points and an 18-point advantage over Busch.

That gap, however, is much smaller thanks to Busch’s consecutive victories over the last two weeks.

“You know, you can't put a price tag on the bonus points for sure, but it shows that this team is performing at a high level even when we're not our best,” Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens said.

Even so, Stevens knows the competition is only going to increase moving forward.

“As far as the next round, any time you eliminate four drivers, the field gets thinner and the points you need to score to advance are even more,” he said. “You’re going to have to be that much sharper, that much better, and (make) that many fewer mistakes.

“Aside from winning, you just have to perform each and every week, and it just ramps up each time we go to a new round.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Commentary