Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four stories examining why each driver could win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
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Kyle Busch will win the 2017 championship because …
He’s been the best driver the second half of the season, and momentum counts.
Joe Gibbs Racing struggled to find its footing in the early going of 2017, being held out of Victory Lane until Denny Hamlin broke through at Loudon in mid-July. Busch has won 31 percent of the races since then, leading laps in every single one of them until this past weekend at Phoenix when he had already clinched and had nothing on the line.
These weren’t even off-cycle, circumstantial circuits in front of the field — he piled up double-digit laps led in all but three of those. His 1,980 laps led in 2017? They’re already 307 more than he’s accumulated in any season of his career, with one race left to pile up more.
Whatever performance change JGR went through over the summer has clearly given Busch’s No. 18 Toyota the speed to get it done. His eight poles this season — five of which have come since Hamlin’s Loudon win — are more than double that of any other driver, so he’ll likely have a tremendous starting position, to boot.
The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion showed us how much grit he has behind the wheel after coming back from devastating leg injuries earlier that season to win his first title.
With a full season behind him and that notorious 2017 Toyota speed, Busch has an excellent shot to pick up his second championship.
The added incentive he has to deny rival Brad Keselowski from his second title probably doesn’t hurt Busch any, either.