LONG POND, Pa. – Consider this: Kyle Busch is only the third driver in the last 20 years to win at least three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
Sunday, Busch will look to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to win four consecutive Sprint Cup races. Jeff Gordon won four in a row in 1998. Others who have done it in the last 25 years include Mark Martin (1993), Bill Elliott (1992) and Harry Gant (1991).
Busch’s bid to win a fourth consecutive race begins from the pole and is part of a spectacular weekend he’s had so far at Pocono Raceway. He also won Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.
Put it this way, including Trucks, Xfinity and Cup, Busch has won the last four races he’s competed, scoring victories in the Truck race at Pocono, the Cup and Xfinity races at Indianapolis last weekend and the Cup race at New Hampshire two weeks ago. The last race Busch lost was the New Hampshire Xfinity event when he finished fourth to teammate Denny Hamlin.
“Things are going right right now,’’ Busch said after his Truck series win. “I don’t know what exactly it is. I think we have a really good shot (Sunday). It’s 400 long miles. If we can do everything right like we have in these last few weeks and put ourselves in the right position, we might be able to go to victory lane (Sunday).’’
Busch also is chasing a spot in the Chase. After missing the first 11 races of the season because of an injury, he enters Sunday’s race 23 points out of 30th. To be Chase eligible, Busch needs to be in the top 30 in driver points after next month’s Richmond race. He could climb into the top 30 this weekend.
Busch’s quest for four Cup wins in a row is among the storylines for Sunday’s race.
If not Kyle Busch, then who? How about his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates? Carl Edwards was third quickest in the final practice session Saturday with Hamlin seventh and Kenseth eight. The JGR cars were 1-2-3-4 in Saturday’s first practice session.
If not them, keep an eye on Kevin Harvick. He finished second to Martin Truex Jr. in the June race at Pocono and has been fast this weekend.
“I feel like our car is great,’’ Harvick said. “We have a car capable of winning the race.’’
Don’t forget about this driver. Joey Logano has scored six top-five finishes in the last seven races. He’s finished runner-up in two of the last three races. If it wasn’t for Kyle Busch, the talk would be about Logano’s run the last few weeks. Instead, Busch’s run is overshadowing Logano’s performance.
“I like the improvements we have seen in speed over the last month from where we have been,’’ Logano said.
Something’s missing. Those bumps that launched the front wheels of cars off the ground in June are gone. Justin Allgaier showed how smooth that portion of the Tunnel Turn was Saturday morning during a pace car ride. One didn’t feel any bumps going through that corner.
“The bumps are so much better,’’ Allgaier said.
Keep an eye on pit strategy. A driver can pit under green and not lose a lap because it takes so long to complete a lap at Pocono Raceway. That means a driver often can pit when the crew chief sees they’re in the proper fuel window to make it to the end on the fewest number of stops instead of having their stops dictated by cautions.
In June, Martin Truex Jr. made his final pit stop on Lap 122 of the 160-lap race, taking four new tires.
Last August, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pitted for two tires on Lap 122 and then topped off with a fuel only stop on Lap 131 and went on to win the race.
Watch how crew chiefs play fuel mileage and track position.