Kyle Busch eyes momentum shift in return to Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kyle Busch returns to Talladega Superspeedway this week as the defending winner. He could use another dose of victory this year.

A two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Busch enters the 2.66-mile behemoth of a race track in the midst of a 30-race winless streak that dates back to June 2023, where he scored win No. 63 of his career at World Wide Technology Raceway. Busch was 0.007 seconds away from winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in March, but he’s finished 20th or worse in four of the seven races since that third-place Atlanta finish.

MORE: Talladega starting lineup | Weekend schedule

Still, two of his last four starts have resulted in top-10 finishes — ninth at both Circuit of The Americas and Texas Motor Speedway. With Richard Childress Racing’s knack for excelling at superspeedways, Busch is optimistic about hitting the high banks of Talladega on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“Just come out here and try to do it again,” said Busch, who starts fourth this week. “The guys at RCR and ECR have done a great job. We build really good superspeedway cars, and it’s fun when you get to come out to Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta and know that you’ve got a shot to win.”

Busch currently sits tied for 15th in the regular-season points standings with Joey Logano, another two-time Cup champion. He is not yet focused on points, though, with 17 races remaining in the run-up to the playoffs. Instead, he’s setting sights on simply building better and more consistent performance with his No. 8 team at RCR.

“I mean, points will take care of themselves,” Busch said. “If you run better and run well and can get stage points and get good finishes, then they’ll take care of themselves. So we obviously haven’t been doing that lately and I presume we’re lower than we want to be. But, you know, that’s just the nature of what we got right now.”

To produce those results, Busch knows he needs to be closer to the front of the pack. His average running position of 16.77 ranks 14th across the series, with his three top 10s tied with Logano and Denny Hamlin for 15th-best. Incremental gains from Talladega and behind will only help the No. 8 team build momentum heading toward the postseason.

Kyle Busch qualifies for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kyle Busch qualifies for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

That, of course, bodes well after last week’s ninth-place effort at Texas. Busch hovered outside the top 20 for much of the event (evidenced by a 28th-best average running position of 23.29), crashing in practice, starting from the rear and contacting Carson Hocevar at Lap 114, which sent the rookie spinning. Yet he and the team maximized the day to come back and ultimately score a top 10.

“I mean, good finishes obviously help, right? Like getting things going in the right direction,” said Busch, a two-time winner at Talladega. “But ultimately, we had a pit strategy deal there where a caution came out, we cycled ahead, and we got some position. But that was everybody, right? I mean, Larson went to the back and he really didn’t do a whole lot. I know the 33 (Austin Hill) and I were racing for 35th at one point early, and then they got track position and they held it, you know? So that’s just the name of the game right now with these cars. You’ve got to execute and be up front and not make any mistakes yourself. Rely on others to make mistakes.”

There is also something to be said for having a positive mindset when climbing into the cockpit of one of these NASCAR Cup Series machines. Busch has found some of those bright sides in midweek dirt racing, which included a recent stop at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he raced dirt micro sprints the same night his 8-year-old son, Brexton, hit the track.

“The dirt stuff is fun,” the elder Busch said. “Yeah, it’s just a little kind of kick-back, have fun. I like to go to the race, and if I’m going to be there all night, I might as well get behind the wheel and just keep my senses fresh a little bit and not get old.”

Can any habits — good or bad — stem from those dirt races?

“A little bit,” he said. “I mean, you get beat by the kids and (then) you’re washed up and you can’t do it anymore. So that always sucks. But hell, I get that a lot on Sundays too.”