NASCAR

Busch counting on road race to get back in Chase

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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Something that impressed me from Monday's race at Pocono was a pretty darn good crowd was able to stay over. I was just very impressed that many people came back out. I would wager to say there might be some people that called in sick that might not be really sick. The other thing that was impressive was some darn good racing and not always for the lead.
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All things happen for a reason and with everything Denny Hamlin had been through with losing his grandmother a few days before the race, he was pretty possessed to take that No. 11 car to Victory Lane. He led something like half the race and became our 12th different winner of the season. Jimmie Johnson is comfortably in the 2009 Chase so even if the team wasn't able to fix the spark plug problem, the hit he would have taken in the points at Pocono really wouldn't have affected anything. By finishing 7th, Mark Martin has helped his cause. That puts in about a full race in points ahead of Kyle Busch who is now in 13th. I see where the battle still exists is from Matt Kenseth down to David Reutimann. I really believe Jeff Burton is out of the 2009 Chase picture because he is now over 200 points out of 12th position. I just don't see that much ground being made up in with only five races to go before the Chase field is set. There were a couple of guys who did themselves a lot of good Monday. They include Clint Bowyer who finished third. He's still got a long way to go with two people still in front of him and 115 points out of 12th spot. Brian Vickers got his second top six-finish in a row and he is just 104 points over Greg Biffle who sits in 12th. To me, the real winner of the day was Juan Pablo Montoya. Not only did he finish 2nd at Pocono, but he also got his first top-five finish of the year. That puts him a full race in points ahead of Kyle Busch too. Kyle only had a marginal day. Sure it was his best finish in the last couple weeks, but he needs a lot better finishes if he is going to make it into the Chase. When I look at 11th place back to 16th place heading into Watkins Glen this weekend, the only one that really jumps out at me as a really accomplished road racer is Kyle Busch. Kenseth, Biffle, Vickers, Bowyer and Reutimann collectively aren't ones who look forward to road racing. Also remember that it was Kyle who won both road course races last year. There are only five races to go until the field is set for the Sprint Cup Chase. Bristol will be a nail biter. Like the superspeedway races, you can find yourself a victim at Bristol due to someone else's issues. But this is the weekend that guys on the edge of the Chase are going to be sweating the most. To me, with only five races to go Busch, Vickers, Bowyer and Reutimann are about to the point where they need to throw caution to the wind and go for it because the clock is ticking. Using a baseball analogy, they are getting to the point of the season where getting a single or a double just isn't going to do it. They are going to have to start swinging for the fence. Are the drivers who have a shot at the Chase racing smarter? Absolutely they are. But at the same time, I also noticed Monday at Pocono with the double-file restarts they had no problem going right back to three- and four-wide racing. Guys from the points leader Tony Stewart all the way down to Kasey Kahne are solidly in the Chase and are trying now to notch wins because of the bonus points they will receive in the Chase for each victory. Denny Hamlin went into the race Monday knowing he was in pretty good shape in the points and you saw him swing for the fence. He didn't show any signs of points racing. He wanted to win that race for personal reasons. So with the win, he got 10 bonus points to be added to his points when the Chase starts. The guys just inside the Chase for the next five races simply want to keep the No. 18, No. 83, No. 33 and the No. 00 in their rearview mirror. I hope and pray as we edge towards 2010 that NASCAR will look at ways to work with the teams to tweak this car a little bit. They need to make it a little easier to catch someone and then go ahead and pass them. I also hope we can find ways to control costs and that will encourage more cars to attempt to make the race. Pocono was the first time this season that we only had 43 cars show up and race. I don't think we will be at a point when we ever have less than a full field, but I sure hope we can get more than 43 wanting to attempt to qualify. Also this weekend the teams have to completely revamp their pit stops. Watkins Glen is the only place where they pit backwards to what the teams are used to. They don't even do that at our other road course at Sonoma. The other thing what will be somewhat of a wild card is the road course ringers that might have an effect on the points. You will see Ron Fellows, Brian Simo, Boris Said and some others that are accomplished road racers, taking over for some of the drivers this weekend. They could have an effect on available points for those guys just inside or outside the Chase, being taken off the board.
Tagged: Juan Pablo Montoya, David Reutimann, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Tony Stewart, Ron Fellows, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Boris Said, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin

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