Kyle Busch keeps reaching NASCAR’s historic heights

Fresh off a historic 55th career victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Kyle Busch is hoping to keep his momentum heading into Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Busch’s work last weekend tied him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace on the all-time Monster Energy NACAR Cup Series wins list. And as with Wallace, all the drivers ranked ahead of him (with the exception of 83-time winner and current driver Jimmie Johnson) are already esteemed members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Busch would love to carry some of that golden touch into Michigan, a place where he’s had to work hard throughout his career. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has one victory (2011), 10 top 10s and six top fives in 28 starts on the two-mile track. But his 89.2 driver rating is only ninth best among the current top-16 rated drivers. And his 255 career laps led there is near the bottom of that mark statistically for Busch through the season’s opening 15 venues. He’s only led fewer laps at Talladega (238) and Las Vegas (254) among tracks the series has visited so far in 2019.

Busch has top-10 finishes in the last four Michigan races – including fourth place and third place in the two races last season. But that snapped a streak of seven consecutive finishes outside the top-10, including a pair of DNFs in 2015 (crash) and 2016 (engine). He’s only led laps in four of the last 14 Michigan races.

With 13 top-10 finishes – including four victories – in 14 races this season, however, Busch and his team understandably arrive in Michigan feeling optimistic. His average finish this year is 6.4. The next best such mark is Joey Logano at 8.3 and Chase Elliott at 9.2. He’s led laps in 12 of the opening 14 races.

“I’m not entirely sure (what to expect),’’ Busch said of Michigan. “We’ll just go into the weekend like we always do – keep working on our car to be the best it can be in practice on Friday and hope we have a shot to get back to Victory Lane there. We have had a lot of struggles on the repave but turned that around a bit last year. Our whole team has shown how well we’ve worked together and [crew chief] Adam {Stevens] has been able to make the right calls, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for me at Michigan this weekend.’’

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