Kurt Busch went to the World Series game Monday night. He knows how the St. Louis Cardinals feel.
On the verge of elimination.
The Cardinals are down because of Game 5. He's down because of Talladega.
"That's the key point. Getting through Talladega," he said. "And we didn't get that done this year."
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Caught up in a wreck on NASCAR's longest track, Busch finished 36th and left Alabama in eighth place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings.
That doesn't sound bad, but the 52 points he's down to leader Carl Edwards is more than a race's worth.
With four stops to go, including the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 6, Busch would have to make up about 13 points a race on the leader to have a chance.
Assuming the leader doesn't change.
"Yeah, we can chisel away at it, but it's not likely we can catch those top three guys," Busch said. "It just seems like we've had too much trouble. If we could have finished Talladega in the top 10 where we were running, we would only be 18 or 20 points back. It's tough to gain 50 points on those guys."
But he still has a chance. He made NASCAR's version of the playoffs and he hasn't been eliminated. With some luck -- maybe a home run or two -- he might get one more shot at his second Chase trophy.
"The Chase format, it's where it needs to be for our sport," said Busch, who won the first Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2004. "It's exciting. It has that playoff atmosphere. ...Everybody had the Cardinals written off a month before the end of the season. Everybody had Green Bay written off when the season was coming to a close. Green Bay won their Super Bowl. There are the Cardinals, right in the mix. That's what the Chase format does."
The Chase format also breeds unpredictability.
The previous scoring system rewarded consistency. Now, wins matter. They've always mattered, actually. But they matter more, and not just to Chase drivers.
Non-Chase drivers are pushing hard, too, he said.
"Maybe even harder, now that the Chase has settled in over the years," he said. "You've got these guys that are on the verge of winning, and they don't really give the respect to those Chase guys. They're in it for themselves, trying to push for Victory Lane. Which is fine. You have to know who's in the Chase and who's not."
If Busch can make a push this weekend at Martinsville, he might gain traction. He won at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2009. He was fourth in the April race last year and 10th in the April race this year.
But TMS can be unpredictable like Talladega, he said.
"This is at that point of you're in it to win it, or you're just going for the gusto and trying to win a race because your season is just too far out of reach to get that championship," he said. "The speed here, the intensity, it's an exciting portion of the Chase. And you can see a lot happen at this race, too. I mean, things can be won or lost here."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407