Kurt Busch is looking to write a dream ending to a season that got off to a nightmarish start.
He has overcome what has since been deemed an unjust suspension that sidelined him for the first three races, including the Daytona 500. Now the season ranks among the best in his career, earning him a contract extension and seeing him into the final eight in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
He is considered one of the favorites to win the championship, given his strong history at the three races in the Eliminator Round. He has won at every track in the round, including twice at Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
“This was our objective at the beginning of the year,” said Busch, the 2004 Cup champion who will start 15th on Sunday. “We had a solid goal in place to be a top-eight team and we’re there. And now we have to apply the certain logic and strategy to win this championship.
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13 Top-10 finishes in 25 races at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Once you get this far, this is the best of the best at this point, and it turns more back into a points race with four races that you have to accumulate the most amount of points as possible.”
Busch, 37, should feel confident in his ability to rack up points and earn a spot as one of the final four drivers in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22. A victory by any one the eight drivers in the round secures a spot in the championship.
But at least one spot will be determined by points, and Busch figures to be a strong contender to qualify one way or the other.
He has two wins, and is in the midst of his best season, at least statistically. Busch has an average finish of 10.7, which is almost two full spots better than his championship year (12.5).
Additionally, Busch is driving for a team, Stewart-Haas Racing, that won last year’s championship with Kevin Harvick.
Kurt Busch has an average finish of 10.7, almost two full spots better than his championship year in 2004 (12.5)
All of it adds up to making Busch and his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet team a dangerous threat with four races to go.
“I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t win the title,” Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. “That would be some sort of comeback considering how the season started for him.”
His season couldn’t have started worse.
Days before the Daytona 500, Busch had been handed an indefinite suspension after a Delaware family court commissioner concluded that he more likely than not “committed an act of domestic violence” against his ex-girlfriend.
Busch appealed the suspension in an expedited process, but to no avail. He missed the Daytona 500, and the next two races before he was cleared.
In March, the Delaware attorney general’s office announced that it would not pursue criminal charges against Busch, citing it wouldn’t be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“In today’s politically correct world, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” said Gossage, who considers Busch a friend. “At the same time, NASCAR had to take the charges seriously, but under further examination things fell apart.
“I’m proud of how he handled it and how he’s done everything right. It’s unfair that he started off this year with a tainted, controversial deal, but he kept his mouth shut and just went about his business the right way. He’s earned where he’s at this year.”
Busch put his suspension behind him once he returned to the racetrack. He finished fifth in his season debut at Phoenix, then won the pole and placed third at Fontana, Calif., the next week.
Busch won another pole at Texas in April, and notched his first win of the season later that month at Richmond. He had a second visit to Victory Lane at Michigan in June, and is now looking to cap his season with a championship run.
Quite a season for a guy whose racing days appeared to be in serious jeopardy when the season begun.
12:15 p.m. Sunday, NBCSN