‘Good day overall’ at Dover puts Kyle Busch back on race-contending track

After finishing outside the top 20 in four of his past eight Cup Series races, Kyle Busch rattled off a fourth-place finish at Dover.

DOVER, Del. — Despite finishing on the third-place end of an electric photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, Kyle Busch looked to be in a momentum-building position to perhaps tally off even more top-flight finishes. The eight subsequent NASCAR Cup Series races for Rowdy and the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team — spanning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Talladega Superspeedway — instead saw the group tally only two top 10s and finish outside the top 20 four times.

A fourth-place finish at Dover Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Würth 400, though, might rekindle early-season thrills and perhaps ignite an upswing as Rowdy rumbles forward in his 2024 Cup campaign.

“I felt like today was a good day overall,” Busch said. “There are still things to clean up, but I’m proud of a top-five effort. It felt like if we would have restarted third, I might have been able to keep pace maybe somewhere closer to the front. But starting where I did and having to race the 10 [Noah Gragson] was difficult. I hate it for our guys that we didn’t get a better finish, but the FICO Camaro was good. Just struggled a bit on the long, long run.”

“I think Kyle did a great job today,” Randall Burnett, No. 8 crew chief, told NASCAR.com. “It was a solid day for us. We were up and around the top seven all day long, which was a building block for us. We struggled the last few weeks, so to come out here and sit on the pole and run up in the top seven pretty much all day long and be in contention all day, it was a good day for us, overall.”

Despite opening the Dover race weekend with the 12th-fastest lap time during Friday’s practice session at the Monster Mile, Busch wheeled the No. 8 Chevy to the fastest speed during Saturday’s qualifying run, which netted the 38-year-old Las Vegas native his 34th-career pole and first since World Wide Technology Raceway in June 2023.

Such momentum continued through the opening portions of Sunday’s Delaware bout, with Busch leading 33 total laps and claiming nine combined stage points via his seventh and sixth-place finish in Stages 1 and 2, respectively. However, a Lap 330 wreck re-shuffled the field, with Denny Hamlin inevitably making the most of the circumstance to capture his third Cup win of the season.

Capturing his first Cup win of 2024, to Busch, could have possibly transpired with more speed up front.

“I felt like there, when we came off of pit road in third, if we could’ve maintained third, maybe, kind of, sort of, we might’ve had something for the front to or at least been able to keep pace closer to the front too to see what would’ve happened toward the end of the race, but that wasn’t to be,” Busch said. “We had to come back down and restart eighth and eighth to fourth in that final run right there, so decent day, just obviously, could’ve been one spot better, but still not a win.”

From his perspective atop the pit box, Burnett echoed Busch’s sentiment.

“In order to win these races, you gotta put yourself up in the front, so that’s what we gotta do,” Burnett said. “We got to be running up in the top five and put ourselves in position so we can try to get one of these. We just got to keep doing that week in and week out, more than anything.”

Although he couldn’t triumph in Victory Lane, a fourth-place run provides momentum that perhaps can be translated in the coming weeks.

A straightforward mindset will be critical for Busch and the No. 8 team as they continue to search for win No. 1 this season.

“Everything is week-to-week,” Busch said. “You just gotta keep working at it week-to-week. It can be different every week. I’m sure the 9 [Chase Elliott] didn’t think they were capable or in a position that they were ready for a win yet, and they got one a couple weeks ago, so just keep putting yourselves up front and in position and doing what you need to do for that.”

Following Dover, Busch sits 11th in the points standings, a six-position bump from where he was a week previous. And there’s a possibility for even more ground to be gained, with Busch holding two wins, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s in 32 career starts at Kansas Speedway, the same track the Cup Series tackles next on May 5 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The X factor? Consistency. And after Dover’s finish, so far, so good for Busch as he and his team look to maintain upward momentum.

“We just gotta be consistent,” Burnett said. “We gotta come out here and perform like we did this weekend, bring a fast car, unload fast, qualify well, and qualifying has become such a big deal in these cars because it just sets up your whole weekend, so that’s one thing we gotta do better is we gotta qualify up the top five consistently and put ourselves in position to get stage points and position run up front all day.”