Kurt Busch knows a lot can happen over the next eight weeks, which lead up to the start of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15.
Big points can be lost more easily than they’re gained. Yet, Busch has seemingly made it look easy over the last few weeks as he’s gone from 18th to ninth. Currently sitting in a Chase position, an impressive feat for the single car team of Furniture Row Racing. But, something that Busch isn’t afraid to say, doesn’t mean much right now.
“To be in the top 10 is great. It’s a nice feather in the cap, but there is still a long way to go,” Busch said on Friday in New Hampshire.
“You can lose points real easily, but it’s tough to gain the points. So basically from eighth to 18th everybody fits in one shoe box right now.”
Following his solid sixth place finish in Daytona, Busch moved into the top 10 in points for the first time this season. Moving forward, he says it’s not rocket science what his team needs to do, it’s not about getting back to basics. It’s about working on the fundaments and eliminating their bad finishes.
In other words, Busch says he doesn’t want the team tripping over their shoelaces just to take a shot at winning a race. They won’t be forcing it to happen, instead choosing to remain smooth and steady and hoping that strategy pays off.
Since Darlington in May, in which he sat on the pole, Busch has only finished outside the top 14 once. When spun himself out at Michigan while running in the top five, after he had led laps. That’s been one of a few mistakes the team’s suffered, which potentially kept them out of victory lane.
After leading early at Sonoma, Busch was caught speeding on pit road but battled back for a fourth place finish. In the last three weeks he’s finished fourth and sixth twice. Those results are what’s setting up an improbable shot at championship contention.
“It’s going to mean quite a few things for quite a few different reasons. For us to be in the Chase is a huge accomplishment for a single car organization,” Busch said.
“For me, secondly it’s great to be back in the Chase and the fraternity of guys I’m accustomed to hanging out with over the years. The Chase is still seven, eight weeks away.”
When Busch entered the 2004 Chase while driving for Roush Fenway Racing, he did so not considered as a favorite. But he quickly proved that when the 10-week playoffs begin, it’s anyone’s game and the championship is wide open. Busch won his first and to-date only championship that year, holding off the powerhouses of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports.
And he did so starting off with a victory at New Hampshire. However, Busch hasn’t been in the Chase since 2011, when he drove for Penske Racing and finished the year 11th. After his departure from Penske during a difficult time in Busch’s life, he landed with James Finch last year, left to rebuild and start fresh in the series. He didn’t make the Chase and hasn’t been around the glitz and glamour a title hunt or those he’s normally associated with such as Gordon, Johnson, Tony Stewart and others.
From once contender to pretender, Busch is pressing hard to get back to being a Cup contender. And bringing a team with him that’s championship ready, yet needed the right driver to help put them there.
“The best part [of making the Chase] that Todd Berrier [crew chief] tries to tell everybody is that once we make the Chase, we’re championship eligible,” Busch continued.
“Making the Chase is just the top 12 guys. When you go into Chicago you have a shot at the championship. During that week will be that transition week, but we have to get to that point first. We have to be patient and we have to do our homework. We have to show up and study hard for these next eight weeks.”
Perhaps Sunday – where Busch will start third – could be a preview of what’s to come when the Chase starts. As for the next seven tracks ahead, Busch has won at five of them. The Camping World RV Sales 301 airs on TNT at Noon with the green flag waving shortly after 1:00 ET.