Chase number: The magic number is 49. Any driver 49 points ahead of 11th after this weekend’s race clinches a spot in the Chase. Carl Edwards can do it by being 38th or better (39th with a lap led, 40th with the most laps led); Kevin Harvick 31st (32nd and a lap, 33rd and most laps); Kyle Busch 10th (11th and a lap, 12th and most laps); Matt Kenseth seventh (eighth and a lap, ninth and most laps).
Top-10 streak: Joey Logano has five consecutive top-10s, but now he goes to Atlanta, where his best finish is 18th. That was last year.
Dillon again: Austin Dillon is back in the No. 33 Chevy this weekend for Circle Sport. He’s making his ninth Cup start of the year. He’s also started in the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing and the No. 14 for Stewart-Haas. His best finish was 11th in the 33 at Michigan.
Contenders’ track: Four of the top five drivers in the point standings — Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier — each posted their best finishes at Atlanta in last September’s race. They were all in the top 10.
Camping World Trucks
Road racing: The series runs its first road race in 13 years this weekend when it visits Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The series’ last road race was at Watkins Glen in 2000.
Road experience: Ron Hornaday is the only driver entered with experience on a road course. He has won three times on road courses, at Heartland Park in Kansas in 1995, Sonoma in 1995 and Watkins Glen in 1996.
Good teammate: Will Power, who won last week for the first time this season and sits eighth in the standings, said his goal is to help teammate Helio Castroneves win the championship. “We’ve just had one of those years where things don’t flow. … Obviously, next year’s mindset is different.”
Brother combo: Stefan Wilson will drive the No. 18 for Dale Coyne Racing this weekend as a teammate of his brother, Justin Wilson, in the No. 19. It will be the first time brothers have competed as teammates. Mike and Robbie Groff ran at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1998, but not on the same team.
59 Points lost off his lead by Jimmie Johnson in the past two weeks. He had a 77-point lead over second before an engine failure and an accident left him 40th and 36th. His lead is down to 18 over Clint Bowyer.
They said it
“I’m not going to be out of the worried zone unless I make it or it’s over.” — Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, winless in 2013, on making the Chase.
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There’s no real secret to why Kurt Busch is going to be running for Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
He’s a great race car driver. One of the best.
That is reason enough to scoop him up. That is reason enough the 35-year-old former Sprint Cup champion ought to be in a top-flight garage.
Except, he’s never been what you call a “people” person.
He’ll tell you so himself. He’s got a short fuse that has landed him in trouble before. In 2007, he and his brother Kyle didn’t speak for months after they wrecked each other in the all-star race. In 2011, he spoke in a demeaning fashion about Penske race director Tom German and owner Roger Penske in radio conversations, and it led to him losing his ride in the No. 2. Last summer, he was fined by NASCAR for verbally threatening a reporter.
But his talent is giving him chances. Busch made the No. 51 for single-car Phoenix Racing respectable in 2012, and this year, he has Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 with an outside shot at the Chase.
He has served his penance. It was time for somebody to scoop him up, and Stewart-Haas Racing added a car for him. Gene Haas is sponsoring it out of pocket, putting Haas Automation on the hood.
It is a big sign of faith, and Busch knows it.
“The opportunity is about people,” he said. “That’s what makes this so important that I’ve neglected in the past, is understanding the people, knowing that that makes the difference if you’re going to Victory Lane or not. Stewart-Haas, Gene, Tony, this combination is so powerful. That’s what makes it so exciting. It’s tough for me. I have to remember I have 12 weeks left in the regular season.”
Haas has work to do to make Busch successful. He has to assemble a team and build a car, plus he has to find a team for Kevin Harvick, also hired on for 2014 (to replace Ryan Newman).
And Haas has to manage Busch’s personality.
But, in the midst of the excitement of hiring one of his favorite drivers, Haas is gung-ho.
“I know Kurt’s résumé as well as anybody,” he said. “I kind of like his attitude. He’s passionate about what he does. He likes to win. He’s not afraid to get in people’s faces. I think that kind of reflects my company a little bit. I think there’s a good match there. He’s a passionate person, and it takes a lot of passion to win these races. The fact that he runs into his friends at 200 mph once in a while, has a few tough words with that? They all do that.
“So I don’t really have any problems with that either.”
Right now, everyone’s problems are solved.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez
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