Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of four stories examining why each driver could win the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Coming Thursday: Joey Logano.
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Kyle Busch will win the 2018 championship because …
He has the most avenues to get to Victory Lane. There isn’t a driver in the field who has displayed consistent excellency like Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team have all year in key areas — qualifying, racing, pit stops.
• Qualifying: Busch leads the series in average starting position at 7.6, a full position ahead of second-place Kevin Harvick. He has four Busch Pole Awards — the same number as Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — but when he’s not on the pole, Busch makes the most of his No. 18 Toyota in qualifying trim to start at the front of the pack.
• Racing: Busch has matched his career-high wins in a single season with eight. He’s won a staggering 22 races over the past four years. We’ve seen him win this year with both short-run speed and long-run speed. We’ve seen him win by using his bumper (hello, Chicagoland). We’ve seen him win in dominating fashion (hello, Coca-Cola 600).
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• Pit stops: Joe Gibbs Racing is known for having some of the best athletes on pit road in the industry, while the No. 18 team is known for its consistently fast pit stops. If the Championship 4 are pitting with 10 laps to go in the race, there’s a good bet Busch is going to come out of his pit box quickest.
Perhaps the other non-measurable Busch has going for him — besides momentum from winning at Phoenix — is a steadier confidence than we’ve seen in years past.
We’ve seen cheers for the driver who notoriously has often worn the black hat. Busch has opened up more on social media this year, revealing often intensely personal moments with his family. And he’s never seemed more comfortable in his own skin.
It all adds up, both the stuff that can be measured and then the stuff that can’t. “Rowdy” raises the Cup on Sunday night in Miami.