SONOMA, Calif. – Since when is finishing last a good omen?
It could be for Kyle Busch, who finished 43rd at Michigan last year before scoring the breakthrough victory at Sonoma that propelled him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and ultimately to the series championship.
A year later, Busch comes to Sonoma fresh from another last-place run at Michigan—40th this time because of the smaller Sprint Cup starting grid under the Charter system instituted this season.
Last year, Busch missed the first 11 Cup races of the season because of injuries suffered in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. This year, he already has three wins in his pocket, but his last four races feature a best finish of 30th.
“We came here (last year) after a 43rd-place finish at Michigan,” Busch said. “Oh look, we did it again this year. It would certainly be nice to turn some things around. Definitely, it seems like the May, June months just don’t go my way and aren’t really on our side.”
Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET on FS1) provides a perfect opportunity to right the ship. Busch remembers coming to wine country in 2015 with no particular designs on winning the race, but the event played out perfectly when a late caution allowed him to pit for tires.
“No, it was certainly a welcome surprise to us, for sure,” Busch said. “It wasn’t that we circled it on the calendar thinking we’d have a shot to come back and be able to do that. We actually X’d this one out like we were just trying to survive and get out of here with a good day and a good points day.
“With the way the five races had gone before, coming here last year, the time I had just got back in the car, we weren’t running and finishing the way we needed to.”
But that all changed on a summer day in Sonoma, and Busch went on to become perhaps the least likely champion in recent memory.