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Busch: Recent defeats show Truex's title favourite status slipping

NASCAR Texas start

NASCAR Cup playoff leader Martin Truex Jr's recent defeats show his title favourite status is slipping, reckons Kyle Busch.

Furniture Row Toyota driver Truex has won seven races in 2017, two more than second-best Busch, and quickly assumed a commanding position in this season's new playoff points system.

Truex was able to secure his place in the four-way Homestead title shootout via his playoff points tally with a race to spare in the current 'round of eight' stage.

But Truex had to settle for second behind Busch's Joe Gibbs Toyota at Martinsville a fortnight ago and was then beaten by Kevin Harvick's Stewart-Haas Ford in a victory fight at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.

"It was interesting to see how the #78 [Truex] was beaten at Texas," Busch said.

"I didn't expect that. I thought they were out there a pretty good way.

"It kind of shines a light that they can be beaten."

Harvick and Truex were two of Busch's rivals when he won the second Cup title of the current format in 2015.

"We've raced against the #78 before and the #4 [Harvick] before in this final race in 2015 at Homestead — and we were also racing against Jeff Gordon in his final season that year — and we were able to beat all of them," said Busch.

"So I'm sure we'd like to think we can be the best of them once again."

The champion has won the deciding race in all three seasons of the current format so far, and Busch expects the same again this year.

He was a title contender last season but could only finish sixth at Homestead as Jimmie Johnson won the race and championship.

"You look back at the history of Homestead over the last three years with Harvick winning, myself winning and Johnson winning," Busch said.

"It's going to take winning the chequered flag to win the championship. That's how we look at it.

"We felt like last year we had a really good shot at being able to do that.

"It just came down to some restarts at the end, and we weren't great at the restarts, so we know that's a game we have to improve on and make sure that we're really good and ready for at the end of the race."

The fourth and final title contender will be decided at this weekend's Phoenix race.

Brad Keselowski currently provisionally holds that position on playoff points with a 19-point cushion over Denny Hamlin and a further three over Ryan Blaney.

A win for any of Keselowski, Hamlin, Blaney, Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson would guarantee them a title shootout place.

Blaney has taken pole for the Phoenix race, ahead of Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Elliott and Truex, while Busch will line up eighth.

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