Kurt Busch is in such a good mood these days, knowing he has a quality ride for next year, he can let himself not worry about sitting seventh in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, with only a long-shot chance at the championship.If he can put himself in contention, fine.If he doesn’t, well, he and Furniture Row Racing are further along than they ever thought they’d be.Best of the rest would be more than prize enough.“I just see the top five guys, the ones who have continually posted the solid results this year with wins and top-5 finishes, starting to spread themselves out,” he said in a conference call with Texas reporters Tuesday. “For some reason, this whole year, sixth through 20th have felt about the same. Those top five have separated themselves all year long.“For us, trying to get to sixth is a legitimate goal. We’re only one point behind that. At the end of the day, if we can define ourselves as the first team that didn’t finish in the top five, I would say that was a very successful season.”For Busch, the success has come not only from making Furniture Row the first one-car organization to make the Chase, it is from getting himself back into a premier garage. He’ll drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year in that team’s fourth car, joining Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick.“To take a step back to take two steps forward, that really has been the definition of the last couple of years,” said Busch, whose abrasive temper eventually got him kicked out of his ride at Penske Racing, where he won the first Chase for the Championship in 2004, and into the likes of Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row the past two seasons.He said at least it got him in touch with his roots.“This team and this sequence that I raced the last couple years is how racers would have to break in, in their 30s, start with a lower-funded team and work their way up,” he said. “So it’s been a fun last couple of years.”Busch hasn’t given up on the championship, of course. And coming up in the Chase is the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 3 at TMS, where he won a 2009 race.Before that, though, he’ll again host his “Busch-Wacked” mud run to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation and Speedway Children’s Charities. Busch and other drivers and NASCAR officials will race each other in teams on an obstacle course at the TMS Dirt Track on the Thursday of race weekend.Nothing like getting a little mud on you to put you in the mood before a race, Busch figures.“It’s not too long, and it’s not too clean,” he said. “We’re out there getting dirty.”And then next year, he can get a clean start on the next part of his career.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez