DOVER, Del. – Before this year, Kyle Busch had never won more than three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series poles in a single season.
Then the floodgates opened in 2017.
Busch has become the top qualifier in the series with eight Coors Light Pole Awards this season, but the success was hardly instantaneous. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota didn’t win his first 2017 pole until the 13th race of the season, at Dover International Speedway.
Including that event, Busch has topped qualifying for eight of the last 17 races. On Friday afternoon, he narrowly missed a sweep of Dover poles this year when he qualified second to Martin Truex Jr. by .038 seconds.
Fortunately for Busch, the advent of stage racing, where qualifying position often leads to additional points in the first segment of a race, has dovetailed perfectly with the driver’s newfound prowess in time trials.
Perhaps that’s deliberate, though Busch isn’t sure why his pole count has improved so dramatically.
“Obviously it’s great that we have that,” Busch said. “I don’t know why the breakout is. But being able to qualify up front each and every week and having that speed right off the bat gives you a chance of scoring more stage points.
“I feel like that’s one of the things that’s helped us this year of staying further up in the running the entire season long and being able to get some of those stage wins. It’s just a testament to (crew chief) Adam Stevens and the group of guys and everything we’ve got going on.
“We unload pretty close right off the truck every single week, and that certainly helps a lot of things out where we’re not chasing ourselves as soon as we get off the truck.”