Jeff Gordon is the feel-good story of NASCAR this season. He’s the sentimental favorite, an iconic driver with a chance to go out on top.
If Gordon pulls it off, it would be a fairy-tale ending to a storybook career. In most people’s minds, that is.
Leave it to Kyle Busch to believe he might have a Hollywood script to rival Gordon’s should he win the title.
“Jeff Gordon would be the fairy-tale ending. I would be the Disney-story ending,” Busch said last week inside the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota hauler at Martinsville Speedway.
Jeff Gordon would be the fairy-tale ending. I would be the Disney-story ending.
“That’s how I look at it. I feel like someday maybe down the road there may be a story written or a movie done about this year for me. I think the script is written, we’ve just got to follow it and win that championship.”
Busch is right that he’s put together a memorable season. He broke his right leg and left foot in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, sidelining him for not only the Daytona 500 but also the first 11 races of the season.
When Busch returned, he showed the injury didn’t affect his driving ability. He went back to being among the top drivers in the business, winning in his fifth race back at Sonoma.
11 Races missed to open the season for Kyle Busch (broken right leg, broken left foot)
That began a stretch of four wins in five races, securing Busch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. And he’s now one of eight drivers left with a chance for a championship.
“I would say it’s been a typical Kyle Busch season,” Busch said. “We’ve run well, finished good and won some races. I wouldn’t say I was surprised by my success, or any of my guys were surprised. They’re on my team because that’s what they expect.
“I will say it was definitely a relief that I was able to come back and be the same type of driver that I was before my injury.”
Now, Busch is focused on capping what has already been an impressive season with his first championship. He knows he must find a way to get one of the three spots remaining in the championship round with Gordon already locked in after the win at Martinsville.
For Busch, winning the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday might be his best chance for an automatic bid. Busch has won at the track before — a wire-to-wire win in the spring of 2013 — and has led laps in 10 of 19 career starts.
1Career win at Texas Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch
“I like going to Texas,” Busch said. “It took me a little while to figure out what exactly I needed to run well at that place, but I felt I was hitting on it a little bit. Then when I won there in spring of 2013, it feels like it’s a good place for us to go to.”
If Busch fails to win at Texas or Phoenix, he would have to advance via points. That is doable, particularly because Busch is in the best position after Martinsville.
But winning remains the surest way in and Busch knows he has to get back to doing just that down the stretch. However, it’s an uphill battle given that wins have eluded him at this point in the season his entire career. It’s remarkable to think that Busch has never won a Chase race while he was in contention.
He shakes his head at that fact, too.
“I have no idea what that’s all about,” Busch said. “Other drivers get better and better and better from the beginning of the year to the middle part of the year to the end of the year. And I feel like I’m always at a plateau.
“I can come out of the box stronger than them, but I just stay even keeled and they kind of grow into being a little bit better than me by the end of the season. So I definitely need to get better at being able to find a little bit more out of myself and my equipment at the end of the season.”
Busch, 30, seems to have turned that corner this year to an extent. He has three top-five finishes in seven Chase races, including a fifth-place run at Martinsville. Maybe it’s just a matter of time for it all to come together for Busch and, as he’s said, it would fit in well as another chapter in his movie-script season.
Kyle’s been an amazing success story this year, no question.
TMS president Eddie Gossage
“Kyle’s been an amazing success story this year, no question,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “Nobody has ever doubted Kyle Busch’s talent and he’d be a great champion, especially this season. That was an ugly injury at Daytona. But it’s already been a great success story for him to have the success that he’s had.”
AAA Texas 500
Texas Motor Speedway
1 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5