Kyle Busch crushed it at Bristol Motor Speedway, sweeping all three NASCAR National Touring Series races for the second time in his career, a feat no one else has ever done once.
Saturday night’s Bass Pro NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway was great fun, with first Busch and Kyle Larson and then Busch and Erik Jones putting on an excellent display of hard racing.
Here are seven takeaways from the 24th of 26 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series:
Oh, what a feeling
The top four finishers at Bristol all drove Toyotas: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. After winning just two of the first 17 races of the season, Toyotas have won five of the last seven, which proves how quickly things change in NASCAR. It’s also a reminded that could change again before the year is out.
Not making the playoffs
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano aren’t going to make the NASCAR playoffs, and I doubt Clint Bowyer is, either. To win a race, most of the time you’ve got to lead laps and run up front with regularity.
In the last 14 races, Logano has only led once — 7 laps at Kentucky — and his best finish in the last four races was 13th at Bristol. He just hasn’t had much speed lately.
In the last eight races, Earnhardt’s best finish is 12th and his cars have consistently lacked speed, too.
Bowyer has run well lately, but his ceiling at short tracks and intermediate tracks seems to be around the top five. Worse yet, Bowyer has led only 22 laps all year, less than one per race.
It was great to see a solid crowd at Bristol Motor Speedway again. It maybe wasn’t what it was in the sport’s heyday, but was impressive nevertheless. Thanks, race fans, for coming to the show. You saw an excellent race.
Keeping up with the Jones
David Wilson, Toyota’s racing boss in the United States, told me at the spring Richmond race that Erik Jones would win a race before the year is out. I thought for sure that victory was going to come Saturday night, as Jones qualified on the pole, led a race-high 260 laps and finished second to Kyle Busch. Keep an eye on Jones — he’s an up-and-comer.
What can you say about Kyle Busch at Bristol Motor Speedway? He just owns that track, winning six Cup races, nine NASCAR XFINITY Series races and five more in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Busch deserves congratulations for an amazing accomplishment. That said, watching him race in the Truck Series is how I imagine watching LeBron James play against a junior college team would look like.
I spoke briefly with Richard Petty before Saturday night’s race and it reminded me of how truly dominant he was in the day. Kyle Busch so far has won six Cup races at Bristol, which is very impressive. Now check this out: Petty won 15 races each at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro; 12 at Richmond, 11 at Rockingham, 10 at Daytona, nine at Nashville and seven each at Dover and Columbia (S.C.). No disrespect at all to Kyle, but Petty is and will always be The King, and for good reason.
The title fight
Anything is possible, but the way I see it, the 2017 champion will be one of four drivers: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson or Jimmie Johnson. Collectively, the four have won half of the 24 Cup races run so far this year and 29 of 48 stages. These four are also the only four drivers with more than 15 playoff points.
Could a Brad Keselowski or a Kevin Harvick or a Denny Hamlin crash the championship party? Sure, they could. A lot can and will happen over the final 10 races. But if someone not named Johnson, Larson, Truex or Kyle Busch is the 2017 Cup champion, I will be well and truly shocked.
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