Let’s get to the point. Kyle Busch’s prediction after Bristol that he would be eliminated in this round of the playoffs will be, depending on your view, a self-fulfilling prophecy or another case of a frustrated driver’s comments that shouldn’t be taken for face value.
Does he care if he advances?
“Obviously we all care,” Busch said Thursday in a Zoom conference with reporters. “I wouldn’t be continuing to go to the racetrack each and every week and pouring my heart and soul into this and taking time away from my family if I didn’t care.
“Obviously, there’s M&M’s, Interstate Batteries and Toyota and everybody else on my race car and at Joe Gibbs Racing that supports us and works as hard as they do, and my team and my crew chief and all my guys, they don’t spend the time and effort that they do each and every week and all year long for the years we’ve been together for one of us to not care.
“That’s tongue-in-cheek talk and should be known as that, coming from me, obviously. I say a lot of dumb (expletive). It is what it is, and we’re going to go on this week and fight like hell and try to make it through.”
Busch risks being the first reigning series champion eliminated so early in the playoffs since the current format debuted in 2014. Every reigning Cup champ has made it into the third round in the current playoff format.
He is 21 points outside the final transfer spot. Joey Logano holds that spot heading into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
Three times in Busch’s career he’s entered an elimination race outside a transfer spot and advanced each time. He was never more than seven points behind in any of those cases, though.
Busch has never faced elimination at the Roval. He won at Richmond the week before the inaugural Roval race in 2018 to advance to the next round. Busch clinched a spot in the second round before last year’s Roval race.
The Charlotte Roval has proved challenging for Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing his team. He finished 32nd after he was collected in an accident in 2018. He placed 37th last year after contact and mechanical issues.
Busch said he felt he had a top-six car in those events but “got caught up in stuff.”
That will be a key Sunday.
“We’ve just got to keep ourselves out of trouble,” said Busch, who will start ninth. “That’s hard to do on such a tight circuit with a lot of stuff going on and a lot of guys making desperation moves and us needing to make some desperation moves as well most likely.”
Busch also continues to seek his first Cup victory of the season. He has had at least one win in each of the past 15 seasons. Should he win in the final five races of the season and extend it, he’ll be tied for third on the all-time list in consecutive seasons with a win with Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Jimmie Johnson.
“It’s really important,” Busch said in September of his streak. “Think about it, it’s a 16-year investment … hopefully we can keep that going and get it to 17 and then to 18 or however many that I’m here. It would be nice if I’m able to keep winning races all the way through my career each and every single year that I’m out there.”