Kyle Busch comes to Texas facing tough climb in Chase

Posted Friday, Nov. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Texas best Kyle Busch has an average start of 14.4 and an average finish of 14.1 in 16 Sprint Cup starts at Texas Motor Speedway. Here are his best five performances at TMS:
April 201311
November 201233
April 200833
April 201073
November 2006114

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After a year of waiting, Kyle Busch got his chance again in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

But two bad races have just about made it disappear.

“You get two bad races, and you’re done,” he said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, where he qualified fifth for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. “You can’t have any of those.”

Not with the way Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are clicking off good finishes; they haven’t allowed anyone much margin for error.

But Busch, in fifth and 36 points off the lead, has let himself admit there’s still a tiny chance for him and everybody chasing the leaders.

“I won’t lie. Yeah, I’ve peeked at it,” he said of the point standings. “It’s certainly going to be a lot tougher now than what it had been, and obviously we’re going to have to have some luck on our side.”

At least Busch has a good experience to fall back on.

He won the Sprint Cup race at TMS in April, finishing off a weekend in which he also won the Nationwide Series race.

So if he suddenly starts making something quite unexpected happen over the last three weeks, it wouldn’t be a surprise that it began in Fort Worth.

“We certainly know we can do it,” he said. “We’ve done it here before, and just this spring, it was pretty awesome to be able to get it done because it was the first race with the Gen-6 car here. And of course, I’ve had many successful days in the Nationwide Series here.”

Busch missed the Chase in 2012, but his average finish of 9.0 in the final 10 races — including a run of second, third, third and fourth to finish the season — encouraged him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team.

“I think we’re running so much stronger this year because of the lessons we learned in last year’s Chase,” crew chief Dave Rogers said. “When you’re not in it, you can afford to be more aggressive; you can do things a little bit different. And when you get out of your box, it opens up your eyes to some things you might not have seen. So last year’s experience made this one’s better.

“And we’re continuing to learn. This is the first time that we’ve raced in the top five in the Chase together. It’s the first time we’ve been parked next to the top dogs in the garage. It gives you a bit of a different perspective.”

Busch entered the Chase as the second seed and took second in the first two races, then a fifth that had him in third. However, a 34th-place finish at Kansas Speedway knocked him back to fifth, 35 points back.

Back-to-back top-5s followed, but a 15th-place finish last week at Martinsville looks as though it sealed the team’s fate.

“The past is the past. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rogers said. “This team, Kyle and all the guys, showed that they’re going to race for everything, whether it’s 13th like it was last year or whether it’s fifth, fourth, third, second, first this year — who knows? This game’s never over until it’s over.”

Said Busch, “The best we can do is lead all the laps and win all the races and see where the points stack up. If we do that and we still don’t win it, we did our job.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez

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