One step at a time: Kyle Busch's Chase hopes take another step forward
It's no small irony that what began as the worst season of Kyle Busch's career might still turn out to be the best.
Busch dominated Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway to win for the second time this season and move to within just 87 points of 30th place, the cutoff point he needs to reach to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Considering his year began with a head-on crash into the Daytona International Speedway wall in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Busch's return has been sensational, to say the least. After missing the first 11 points races of the season while he recovered from a compound fracture of the lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of the left foot, Busch has now won two of the last three races on the season.
Likewise, the Joe Gibbs Racing team that started the year off so poorly now has five race victories and placed all four of its cars into the top five at Kentucky on Saturday night. All of that bodes well for Busch making the Chase and taking a serious run at the championship.
When Busch finally returned to competition at Charlotte in May, he was 179 points out of 30th place. In seven races, he's made up 92 points on that gap. In theory, if Busch keeps making up points at this rate, he should crack the top 30 by the end of the Sprint Cup season eight races from now.
It's not a slam dunk, mind you -- a couple of bad finishes could derail his prospects -- but it's certainly possible, something that didn't seem realistic just a few races ago.
That said, after the Kentucky race, Busch said he's just taking it one race at a time.
Asked about narrowing the points gap to 30th place to less than 100, Busch said it wasn't as important as simply winning.
"I'm not thinking about it exactly," he said of the number of points he still needs to make up. "Obviously it's on our mind, but I'm not thinking about the points gained when we win. When we win, I know we did all we can do. That's awesome. And it is what it is. They lie wherever they lie."
For now, the task at hand is to keep running up front. Do that enough and the points should take care of themselves.
"What matters most is for us to go out there and perform and perform at our best at the level that we know how to do and that's what I've said since I came back," said Busch. "If we do everything right and do it how we know we can there's no reason we shouldn't be able to average a 14th place finish or whatever it's going to take to be in the Chase to be in the Top-30. And now with two wins, man, I never would have imagined we would have gotten two wins this fast. But I got a great team and they have done a really good job."