Don’t count out Kyle, Carl just yet

With three races to go until the field for the 2012 Chase for the Cup is determinedl and given that we’re in Bristol this weekend, my eyes are on Kyle Busch.

He is like a rattlesnake. He can strike at any racetrack we go to. He has one win this season, but he desperately needs a second victory to potentially lock up a spot in the Chase. Without that additional win, I don’t see Busch making it.

I am one of many who are very surprised he is even in this position this late in the season. I would bet even Busch is surprised he is in this precarious position. There have been a number of races, including Watkins Glen a couple of weeks ago, when it appeared Busch was on his way to Victory Lane again when something happened.

I believe part of the problem is Busch isn’t racing in the other series as much this year as before. I also think he hasn’t been the same kind of racer since the November 2011 incident with Ron Hornaday in the truck race that ended up getting Busch parked from the Cup race at Texas.

Continuing to use the rattlesnake analogy, it’s as if NASCAR pulled out Busch’s fangs. NASCAR humbled him pretty good and put the fear of God in him.

Combine that with the fact he expanded his business beyond the truck series and added a Nationwide car to his team. There is just so much going on in Busch’s world that the consequences — or risk vs. reward, as we like to say — have factored into his performances.

I’ve lived this in the past as a former crew chief. It’s human nature not to want to admit that maybe you took on too much. Nobody wants to admit in our ultra-macho world of racing that they can get distracted by outside factors. It happens, though. It really is amazing, at times, how certain things can change your perception and also change people’s perception of you.

If you look down the list at other drivers who are on the edge of making the Chase, you also have to consider Carl Edwards. He is in a unique situation. He doesn’t have a single win yet, but even with only three races to go, he still has a mathematical shot of climbing into the top 10 in points, thus gaining an automatic berth into the Chase.

This wasn’t always the case for the No. 99 this season. At one point the team was going backward at a very rapid pace. Now it has turned this thing back the other way. If Edwards can simply outrun Denny Hamlin, he can knock Hamlin into the wild-card position, while Edwards takes a spot in the top 10. Carl is 38 points out of the 10th spot with three races to go, so just look at the math. You are talking about making up an average of 14 points a race, and he would be in it.

Naturally, there are folks who live to crunch numbers who will dispute my contention that Edwards has a legitimate shot, but I have been in NASCAR almost my entire life, so believe me when I say I have seen stranger things happen. Edwards even lived it himself last year when he tied Tony Stewart in points but lost the championship because Stewart had more wins.

Just like Busch, Edwards could win at any of the last three regular-season tracks we are going to. So my point is, Edwards still has a shot. If you heard his interview Sunday after the Michigan race, he knows exactly what they need to do. And they plan on executing that plan.

Both Busch and Edwards drive hard. They both can make it happen. Knowing both these guys as well as I do, just know the capability and the probability still exists for both of them to make the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase. Both know time is running out, so plan on seeing some real excitement on the track.

It all starts Saturday night under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway.