Kyle Busch wants to win in the best worst way

Kyle Busch usually loves to hear when he accomplishes something other drivers haven't.

But don't bother telling the 2015 NASCAR Cup champion that he is the first driver to advance to the championship round of the playoffs in three consecutive years since the elimination-style format began in 2014.

"It don't mean anything if you ain't winning, buddy," Busch said.

Really? It's not cool to be among the four finalists for three consecutive years? Jimmie Johnson hasn't done it. Kevin Harvick is in his third but missed it last year.

"It don't mean anything to get to Homestead," Busch said. "No. Because you can still finish fourth, and that guy just sucks. You've got to win it. ... Just by making it to the final four for three years, I don't think that means much."

Usually Busch relishes his accomplishments, but his answers reflect the attitude of his team. When asked what he thought Busch would say about advancing to the final for three consecutive years, crew chief Adam Stevens (without knowing Busch's answer) responded this way:

"He probably thinks that's what we should be doing, for one. And he probably thinks that it doesn't matter unless you win it."

Bingo. There will be no moral victories, no happy-to-be-there moments for Busch when he competes against Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski for the title on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Stevens feels the same way.

"At the end of your career, they aren't going to say, 'How many times did you put yourself in position?' They're going to ask you, 'How many times did you do it?'" Stevens said. "That's just professional sports. I completely agree."

But stats exist for how many times a player or coach gets to the Super Bowl. It does get talked about.

"That's what they say when they haven't won it," Stevens said.

Busch won the 2015 title after missing the first 11 races with a broken right leg and broken left foot. He finished third among the final four (sixth overall) last year after gambling with a late pit stop in hopes that he could somehow win the race.

In each of the past two years, Busch advanced on points. He did so this year by opening the semifinal round with a win at Martinsville and having two worry-free weeks at Texas and Phoenix going into Homestead.

"Even though we were the only car to transfer through on points in 2015, it still really didn't stress me out because I felt like we were playing with house money in that year," Busch said.

"Last year, going through all the stressful points of that race, getting ahead of Joey [Logano], but then Joey needing to lose a spot to Harvick or whatever and you're thinking about that, you get mentally drained in those situations. This year is going to be different."

This year, Busch has had no stress. Dave Rogers, crew chief for Carl Edwards last year, told Busch that he doesn't even remember what happened last year at Phoenix because Edwards had won at Texas.

"[Crew chiefs] are probably just a body at the track, but your mind is somewhere else," Busch said of those who advance early in the round.

After Martinsville, Busch finished 19th at Texas after an early flat tire and then seventh at Phoenix. Stevens admits that those two race weekends had a different feel.

"It is weird," Stevens said. "There's never a point in time during the season where the majority of your focus isn't on the current week.

"It's kind of La La land. You want to go [to the track] and have a good day, and nothing would make us more happy than to win. We put our best effort into it, for sure, but it's just weird that it makes no difference whatsoever. This never happens."

Having two somewhat "meaningless" races will help Busch going into Homestead, Stevens said.

"The intensity behind the wheel doesn't change," Stevens said. "It's all the extras stuff and how much outside influence he's letting in and how on edge he is. But you just take the car stuff, and you either put the other stuff on top of it or you don't."

Busch has shown the ability to thrive somewhat through the drama. Despite that persona, Stevens said he would never welcome the distractions.

"He's not better when you put the extenuating circumstances and the distractions and extra stress on top of it," Stevens said. "Behind the wheel is no different. It's just he is coming into the weekend with a clearer head and the right mental approach."

The mind would be on Homestead. Busch remembers what allowed him to hoist the championship trophy in 2015: He was patient during the race.

It would seem that the championship drivers would be all give and no take, but Busch said that philosophy won't work.

"You do still have to give in some moments of the race," Busch said. "I remember the first year in 2015 when we were racing for the championship, there were a couple of tight moments with myself and Kevin or myself and Jeff [Gordon], we were all ... real tight.

"You can't push too hard. You can't always focus on trying to be the lead guy every single moment of the race. You've just got to kind of let it come to you a little bit, I feel like. That was a big learning experience for me in that day. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

If it's meant to be, then Busch will have accomplished something only 15 other drivers have done: win at least two Cup titles.

"It's a career achievement," Stevens said. "The number of drivers and the number of teams and crew chiefs that have been able to make that happen is a short list.

"The more you win, the shorter the list gets. It would be pretty remarkable, I would think."