Crunching The Numbers: Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch – #18 Joe Gibbs Racing M&M’s Toyota

Kyle Busch with his wife Samantha and new son Brexton

Kyle Busch with his wife Samantha and new son Brexton, and their new pet lobster…

Standings: 1st

Points: 863

Bonus Points: 32

  • 17.78% of total possible bonus points

Starts: 25
Wins: 5
Poles: 1
DNFs: 2
Top 5s: 12
Top 10s: 16
Top 15s: 19

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400

Best Finish: 1st – 5 Times

  • Race 16: Toyota/Save Mart 250 – Sonoma
  • Race 18: Quaker State 400 – Kentucky
  • Race 19: 5-Hour Energy 301 – Loudon
  • Race 20: Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard – Indianapolis
  • Race 36: Ford EcoBoost 400 – Homestead

Best Start: 1st (Race 21: Windows 10 400– Pocono)

Average Finish: 10.76 (3rd best)

Average Start: 8.16 (2nd best)

 

Laps Run: 6,752 (37th most)

  • 64.77% of total possible season laps
  • Missed the first 11 races of the season

Miles Driven: 9,200 (38th most)

  • 66.56% of total possible miles
  • Missed the first 11 races of the season

Laps Led: 736 (6th most)

  • 7.06% of total possible season laps
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Kyle Busch’s Finishes

 

I am going to start off with this note: I have never been a fan of the Chase because I, like most NASCAR fans, feel that the Champion should be crowned based on their performance during the entire season. However, a decade into the Chase, it is clearly not going away. While the format changes more times than we can count, the fact of the matter is this is what it is going to be and NASCAR seems keen to keep it this way. So, with that said, this format comes down to winning and being in the top 30 in points by the end of race 26 at Richmond. If you have won, chances are high that you are going to be one of the 16 Chasers, as long as you are in the top 30 in points. While winning may come easier for some than others, remaining in the top 30 may seem easy but it is another tier to this Chase system. With it cleared up how the Chase works, it is time to dive into why Kyle Busch is our 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

He had 11 fewer races under his belt. Many NASCAR fans cry out that he should not be the champion because he did not race the whole reason. They say he should not have been a part of the Chase at all. Well, it is time to quiet the haters. As NASCAR has done before Kyle Busch, he was granted a medical waiver and would be Chase eligible; however, they did not relax the rules for him. As per the rest of the field, Kyle Busch would have to be in the top 30 in points and have wins to make it into the Chase. It was not possible for Busch to earn enough points to make it into the top 16 without a win, so winning and earning enough points to get into the top 30 and stay there is what he had to do. With 11 fewer races than the rest of the field, this was a huge mountain to climb. Winning is something Busch can do rather easily, but being consistent enough to get enough points is another ball game in itself.

Toyota/Save Mart 350 - PracticeIn his first race of the season, which came at Charlotte Motorspeedway in May, the longest race of the season might it be pointed out, Busch raced his way to a top 15 finish, just outside of the top 10. Slowly but surely, the team would find their rhythm with Busch back behind the wheel, or so we all thought. The following week, Busch found himself at the bottom of the field (no) thanks to an accident. Pocono he grabbed his first top 10 of the season, only to be followed by another accident at Michigan. In his first 4 races back, a combination of 2 top 15 finishes and 2 DNFs held Busch to an average finish of 24.75 and struggling to gain ground on the field to get into the top 30. Then, something happened, something amazing; Busch found victory lane for the first time this season at Sonoma in his 5th race of the season. This should be no surprise as Busch is a pretty good Road Course racer, having won before. So, one important piece of the Chase puzzle has been checked off – winning. Winning more would mean more points and more ground gained on the precious 30th place position in points.

And winning is just what Kyle Busch is good at and did, in fantastic fashion. Just 2 weeks after his first win of the season, he found victory lane again, and again, and again! Back to back to back victories really made a statement for Kyle Busch and the entire 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. It seemed that Busch had found his groove and was back to his winning ways, something we should all be accustomed to seeing. As long as he could keep up the great finishes, making the Chase would no longer seem like just a dream, but a reality. Before his first win, it was far away to the Chase field, but once those wins started coming, the finishes he needed came as well and with his average finish of 11.4 (thanks to 4 victories) in the 15 races he had before the Chase begun, Kyle Busch found himself among the Chase class of 2015. He did what the 15 other drivers had; win or have enough points to make the Chase all while maintaining a position inside the top 30 in points. And he did that in only 15 races. Those are the rules folks, and he did what everyone else did. Kyle Busch is in the Chase and in remarkable fashion at that.

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Enter the Chase, where luck has historically never been on Kyle Busch’s side. So many times we have seen him be so strong in the regular season only to falter one to many times in the Chase and not make it very far. Could this time be different? Well, we already know the answer to that, but how he did it is a different story. The Challenger Round is where a Chase is lost quicker than it began. It was not the best round for Busch, it was actually his worst, so much so that he barely made it through to the Contender Round. His average finish of 16 was 12th best, and only 12 drivers got to go on. His 1 extra top 10 than a few other Chasers just edged him to the next round, a round he knew he had to do much better in otherwise his dream season would come to an end. While the Contender Round was not a lot better for Busch, he improved to an average finish of 12th, which was 8th best with only 8 moving on to the Eliminator Round. Kyle Busch was doing just enough to keep his head above the water, and while it has been enough thus far, it would not last much longer. Enter the Eliminator Round, where Busch’s game had to be stepped up drastically because the field is now extremely tight and doggy-paddling will not last. How does 3 top 5 finishes sound for stepping up one’s game and going from the worst of those moving on to each round to the best? That is how Busch rounded out the Eliminator Round and this time, it was more than enough to send him to Homestead to battle Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. for the championship.

Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch pose with what they hope will be their trophy.

Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch pose with what they hope will be their trophy.

Entering Homestead as one of the Final 4, Busch’s Chase among these 4 has been the most improved. This segment of the Chase, unlike the other 3, only comes down to 1 race and the only goal is to finish in front of the other 3 you are competing against for the title. Of the 4 Chasers, Busch has the worst average finish at Homestead. Only coming to this track once a year makes it difficult to gauge the track, so you have to rely on history to help you. His Chase started off slowly but got better each round; could it still get better and put him on top in the end at a track that is not his best? Busch led laps, 41 laps, but that means nothing in terms of (bonus) points; except if he lead the last lap. The most important lap of the season to lead is the final one at Homestead. After 10,424 laps run this season, it all comes down to 1 more lap. Yes, Busch’s laps run this season is drastically lower but there were 10,245 total laps run this season. Either way, 1 more lap, 1.5 more miles, 4 turns away and Kyle Busch took the white flag in first place. Entering the first turn for the final time of the season, Busch just had to hit his marks, but he had to do it with Kevin Harvick right behind him trying to become a back to back champion. Busch held his lines and with a 1.552 second lead, he crossed the finish line in first place, making him not only the winner of the final race of the season but also the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

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He may only have raced 6,752 laps (64.77% of the total possible laps) and run 9,200 miles (66.56% of the total possible miles), but the fact that he won 5 races (20% of the races for him), which is the same number as Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, and only 1 behind season leader Joey Logano, means he won the highest percentage of races he was in this season. He had the 3rd best top 5 percentage, 4th best top 10 percentage, and 5th best top 15 percentage. Need another stat to boost Kyle Busch’s amazing championship worthy season? 736 laps lead in only 25 starts; that turns out to be 6th most number of laps lead of the entire Sprint Cup field. What about bonus points earned? Busch earned 32 bonus points, which was the 4th most bonus points earned the entire season, again, out of the entire Sprint Cup field; that is more than Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and brother Kurt Busch. One more for you – Busch earned an average of 34.52 points per race this season, which was 3rd best, behind Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.

Put all of the numbers together, Kyle Busch was a top 3 driver this season, perhaps only bested by Harvick and Logano in the overall statistical point of view. What matters most is that Busch put in the work like everyone else, but had only 15 races to do it in just to have a shot at a championship, and he did it. His average finish was 3rd best this season, beating out those of Johnson, Gordon, and Earnhardt Jr., and even bested the rest of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. He was tied for the 2nd most races won this season, and again, I will sound like a robot here, but he did that in 11 fewer races. What this says about Kyle Busch is that he is a true racer with an incredible desire to do great things. When he first started off in the Cup Series, he was a kid, a kid who needed to find his way and calm down a little on the track. With a wife and new baby by his side, we saw a new Kyle Busch this season, one who has matured so much over the years and was ever deserving of this story book ending to a season that started off with many wondering if he would ever be back to normal. Busch silences the skeptics and made the haters speak louder, but now, now I think it is time for the haters to truly recognize the greatness he put together this season and applaud Kyle Busch and the entire 18 crew for a truly deserving championship.

Kyle Busch's Finishes By Track Type

Kyle Busch’s Finishes By Track Type

 

Type Starts Avg. Finish Avg. Start Wins Top 5s Top 10s Top 15s DNF
Intermediate 10 9.60 7.50 3 5 7 8 0
Restrictor Plate 2 14.00 14.50 0 0 0 1 0
Road Course 2 1.50 9.50 1 2 2 2 0
Short Track 6 9.50 7.50 0 4 5 5 1
Super Speedway 5 17.00 7.20 1 1 2 3 1

 

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While Busch is recovering from another surgery, I expect that he will jump back in the car at Daytona and be just as determined as ever to race well and win, with the ultimate goal of another championship at the season’s end. I expect great things from Kyle Busch in 2016, because I think he will want to capitalize on what he missed out on in 2015 as well as improve on what he did have in 2015. I expect him to run well everywhere and improve at the tracks he may not love, and I expect his entire team to be at the top of their game just as they were this season. I have nothing but high hopes for Kyle Busch in 2016 and I am proud to call him our 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

 

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Congratulations of the come back story of the year Kyle, not just in NASCAR but in every sport, and I am ready to see what you will do in 2016.

Ashley Hobbs

I was born on the 9th of March in a year which you need not know. I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey, but I now reside in Florida. Here is a bit about myself:

I make friends in random places 👍
Wife ❤️
Penguin Enthusiast 🐧
Mother of (3) Cats 🐈
Math Tutor 🔢
Jersey Girl 🏖️
NASCAR 🏁
Whovian 📺
Go Pack Go 🏈

I hope you enjoy my segment, Crunching the Numbers, and getting insights into each weekend's NASCAR race!

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