NASCAR: Kyle Busch’s win drought a huge deal with historic implications

Kyle Busch is set to enter the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs without a win since November of 2019 and with just one win in the last 15 months.

When Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch took the checkered flag to win the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and secure his second championship, not many people saw that trip to victory lane continuing to be his most recent trip to victory lane and his only trip since June of 2019 by the time the 2020 regular season concluded.

Busch failed to win any of this year’s 26 regular season races, and the #18 Toyota simply hasn’t had winning speed in more than a handful of those events.

Of course, because of the playoff format, it is not impossible for Busch to finish the 2020 season as a three-time champion but without any trips to victory lane.

It’s just highly unlikely, given the fact that he opens the round of 16 in 14th place in the championship standings and the fact that the champion in each of the six seasons of the Championship 4 format has won the season finale.

It’s also not like Busch hasn’t gone on long win droughts before; from 2016 to 2017, he went more than a year without a win, and he still ended up finishing in second place in the 2017 title fight. He is liable to break out with a huge win streak at any moment.

But there is an even bigger element to this win drought than just this season, one of historic proportions.

Busch entered the 2020 season having won at least one race in each of his first 15 seasons as a full-time driver. Only five drivers in Cup Series history have hit 16 straight, and a win this year would put Busch behind only two other drivers on this list.

Richard Petty won at least one race in a record 18 consecutive seasons from 1960 to 1977. David Pearson came one season shy of matching him with 17 consecutive winning seasons from 1964 to 1980.

The three drivers whose streaks ended at 16 are Jimmie Johnson (2002 to 2017), Rusty Wallace (1986 to 2001), and Ricky Rudd (1983 to 1998).

Johnson recently had a chance to match Pearson, but a winless 2018 season prevented him from doing so. He is still seeking his first victory since he won at Dover International Speedway in June of 2017.

Busch is currently tied with Tony Stewart (1999 to 2013), Dale Earnhardt (1982 to 1996) and Darrell Waltrip (1975 to 1989), having won at least one race in each season from 2005 to 2019.

Of the records which Busch has a chance to break, this one has been seen as one of his best bets, considering the fact that he has won at least four races per year since 2015 and the fact that he is still only 35 years old.

But if he can’t extend his streak to 16 in 2020, he is going to have a hard time getting close to this mark again in the future.

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The four-round, 10-race 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are scheduled to begin this evening at Darlington Raceway with the Cook Out Southern 500, which is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.