The 2015 series champion hasn’t won a Cup race in nearly a year, a career-long 35-race drought.
Kyle Busch was out front and seemingly on his way to snapping a nearly one-year winless streak Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Then it all went awry when the Joe Gibbs Racing driver sped on pit road not once, but twice costing himself a potential victory.
Busch led 95 laps and was ahead of the Overton’s 301 when he made a scheduled green-flag pit stop with 63 laps remaining, only to exceed the 45 mph speed limit as he came down pit road. NASCAR issued Busch a drive-thru penalty, which he could’ve overcome had he not sped down pit road again 25 laps later during another routine pit stop.
Instead of winning his first race of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season, Busch finished 12th. Teammate Denny Hamlin scored the checkered flag.
Busch has now gone 35 races since his last win, the longest stretch of his 13-year career between victories. His last win occurred July 24, 2016, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Brickyard 400 next Sunday.
“I messed up a couple of times with getting the speeding penalties, and it pretty much cost us a chance for the win today,” Busch said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ll look forward to getting to Indianapolis next week.”
Busch’s near-miss on Sunday was just the latest in a season where he’s seen apparent wins slip away. Three times he’s been leading with less than 10 laps remaining, and on the year he ranks second in laps, third in points, and fourth in average finish.
And yet, despite the high level of performance he’s exhibited throughout the season, Busch still has a zero in the win column. That fact isn’t lost on Joe Gibbs, Busch’s team owner, who believes his driver could’ve won “maybe eight times” were it not for various circumstances.
“You hate it when something comes up like it did today, but we know that’s part of our sport,” Gibbs said. “Kyle is going to come roaring back from that. I think he feels like each and every weekend he’s got a chance. I know that’s kind of the way he looks at things.”