News & Media

Busch not a factor for title, but is on the track

November 03, 2012, David Caraviello,

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kyle Busch has done the math.

"We'd be sixth or seventh about now," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. That is, had he qualified for this year's Chase -- which he missed by just three points in the Sprint Cup regular-season finale eight weeks ago at Richmond. It's easy to understand why he'd be tempted to figure out where he'd be running among the championship contenders, given that these days Busch is faring better than several drivers vying for the title.

Kyle Busch

2012 Chase Results

The Chase has always been Busch's great weakness -- he hasn't won a race in the playoff since his rookie season of 2005, when he wasn't even in the running for the championship. The first three weeks of the 2008 title run were when his best Sprint Cup season was derailed by a run of mechanical woes. This year he didn't qualify, an untimely pit call by the No. 18 team helping Jeff Gordon to squeeze him out on the night the 12-man field was decided.

And yet there was Busch, last week at Martinsville Speedway wedging his way in among the championship contenders to finish second, and continue what's been one of his stronger finishes to a season. He's finished seventh or better five times in seven Chase races so far, and qualified third for Sunday's event at Texas Motor Speedway. These days Busch may not be a factor for the title, but he's unquestionably a factor on the race track.

Even so, Busch believes the two poor runs he'd had in the Chase -- 28th at New Hampshire due to a mysterious engine problem, and 31st at Kansas, where he was spun by Ryan Newman -- would have taken him out of the running had he been eligible for the title.

"We've had -- surprise, surprise -- we've had enough bad races still that it takes us out of the running for it," he said. "If I go back to Loudon and I give myself a second, and I go back to [Kansas] and I give myself an eighth -- realistic finishes of where we were running -- then we could be the points leader. I'm sure there's a few other guys out there that could do the same thing. It all is what it is, but we missed, so it doesn't really matter anyway."

Those frustrations extend beyond the Sprint Cup tour -- entering Texas, Busch was still trying to win for the first time in his Kyle Busch Motorsports car in the Nationwide Series, where he's visited Victory Lane at least once for eight consecutive years. And although he rebounded to finish fourth, a strong run in Friday night's Camping World Truck Series event at Fort Worth was hampered by an electrical problem that forced him to rally from deep in the pack.

Still, it's all a far cry from Busch's Texas adventure a year ago, when he wrecked Ron Hornaday intentionally under caution in the Truck Series race and was parked by NASCAR for the remainder of the weekend. Now he has the opportunity to finish the year strong, and build toward a potentially better 2013 -- if he can avoid the mechanical issues that have hamstrung both himself and teammate Denny Hamlin, whose Chase effectively came to an end last weekend because of an electrical issue.

"I don't think our performance has changed much all year," Busch said. "I think we've been good, we've been fast -- we've had good opportunities to finish up front and to challenge for wins. I think the biggest thing that kept us from getting those finishes was just stupid luck. Having three engine failures in a row and blowing a brake rotor and having tires going flat and all kinds of stuff. It tried to hurt us again at Martinsville there when we had a right-rear tire going down, and finally I spun out and then we were able to come back and get a second-place finish out of the day. The gremlin is still running around somewhere, we haven't caught him and kicked him to the curb yet, but we need to before 2013."