Kyle Busch no longer in a comfort zone

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 20: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Halloween Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 20, 2017 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Three weeks ago, after the Round of 16 elimination race at Dover, Kyle Busch was in a comfort zone.

Then Charlotte and Talladega happened.

In the first event in the Round of 12, Busch hit the wall at Charlotte and finished 29th, six laps down. In last Sunday’s thrilling race at Talladega, he crashed out in 27th.

Those two results wiped out the advantage he had built in playoff points and left him ninth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, seven points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighth.

With elimination looming in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, only 10 points separate Ryan Blaney in seventh from Matt Kenseth in 10th, with Johnson and Busch in-between. In all probability, two of those four drivers will advance to the Round of 8, and two won’t.

“I feel like I wouldn’t be worried about this if I didn’t have Charlotte or Talladega happen,” Busch said. “But that’s not the situation we’re in. We’ve just got to do a good job. This is our first ‘Homestead’ of this year.

“We’ve got to come through this race. It’s not a must-win, but it is a must-perform. We’ve got to do everything right in order to go out there and be the top guy all day out of the four legitimate candidates that are fighting for the two spots available. We’ve just got to concentrate on that and make sure we can get it done.”

Late Friday Busch qualified eighth for Sunday’s race.

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