Valley of the Sun could shine on Kyle Busch’s Playoff hopes

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Kyle Busch must feel buoyed by his record at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix, where he is the only driver to win in the two races since the facility completed a major renovation and re-configuration last year.

A victory in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would be a huge boost to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season champion – securing his position in the Championship 4 to compete for a season title and giving him all kinds of momentum to do so.

Busch has three career victories at Phoenix and is the only one of the current eight championship-eligible drivers with multiple wins at all three of the tracks – Martinsville, Va., Texas and Phoenix – that comprised this championship set-up Playoff round.

Only nine-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick has more top-10 finishes (22) at ISM Raceway than Busch (20) among the eight drivers still contending for a championship berth. And with both wins on the new-look facility, there’s plenty of reason for Busch to feel optimistic about his chances Sunday. He has hoisted four trophies this season but doing so Sunday would be the first time since a June 2 victory at Pocono.

Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick have secured two of the four positions for next weekend’s title chase. The 2015 series champion Busch is ranked third in the standings with a two-point advantage on defending series champion Joey Logano. He holds a 22-point edge on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in fifth place and a 25-point edge over Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. Chase Elliott is 80 points behind Busch and 78 points out of fourth – mathematically, he can only get into the Championship 4 with a win at ISM Raceway.

Should a non-Playoff driver win on Sunday then both the third and fourth place positions in the points standings would earn a position in the Championship 4. 

“We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy,’’ said Busch, who drives the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“If we can obviously go to Phoenix and have a strong run and be able to go out there and win that will put us through, as well. We’re two points up on the 22 (Logano), so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and 22. Imagine that. We’ll look forward to the challenge and hope we have a strong run in order to make it through to Homestead.’’

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