What a difference a year makes for Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fortunes.
Heading into the August 2012 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, site of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, Busch sat 14th in the Sprint Cup standings coming off a painful last lap at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where he missed out on a much-needed win in his attempt to make the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup field.
The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) ended up narrowly missing the Chase but, despite not being a part of NASCAR’s playoffs, Busch and his No. 18 team put together its best final 10 races ever, notching an impressive seven top-five finishes and eight top-10s.
After enduring a frustrating 2012 season that netted Busch just one Sprint Cup victory, his 2013 campaign has been back to his “Norm” in more ways than one. Busch blazed to his third victory of the season Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, vaulting him to fifth in the standings and back to his winning ways as the team is already eyeing NASCAR’s postseason. Two of those wins have come in the white-and-green Interstate Batteries scheme Busch will run at Michigan in support of Interstate’s Chairman Norm Miller and the thousands of Interstate dealers and distributors who back him. Those victories in Interstate colors at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, along with Sunday’s win at Watkins Glen, give Busch a solid position in the win column behind only Jimmie Johnson and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, who have won four times apiece this season.
Busch hopes to add another victory or two during the final four regular-season races to gain as many bonus points as possible when the 12-driver, 10 race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship gets rolling in September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Coming off what was also a rough 2012 campaign at Michigan, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers returned this past June to race from 32nd at one point to score a solid fourth-place finish. Busch will look to add another Pure Michigan 400 trophy to his collection to go with the one he brought home after his first Sprint Cup win at the 2-mile oval in August 2011. Busch also finished third in the June 2011 race and led a total of 81 laps in the two events that year.
By contrast, in his 12 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan prior to 2011, Busch had no wins, one top-five finish and led a total of 88 laps. So, recent history certainly bodes well for his outlook this weekend.
As the Chase draws near, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team will look to use some of their recent momentum to continue the “Norm” – and a win Sunday at Michigan would certainly help solidify their impressive 2013 rebound.
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