The improbable has become routine for Kyle Busch.
Busch, who missed the first 11 races of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup season, did it again Sunday, winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was Busch’s fourth victory in five races (including three in a row) and completed his weekend sweep at Indy, where he also won Saturday’s Xfinity race.
Busch, who still is experiencing discomfort from a broken left foot he sustained during a nasty crash at the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona (he also broke his right leg), held off Joey Logano in a green-white-checker finish Sunday. The victory followed triumphs at Sonoma (Calif.), Kentucky and New Hampshire in recent weeks.
It’s probably the biggest (victory) of my career so far.
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But Saturday’s was the most meaningful.
“It’s probably the biggest (victory) of my career so far,” Busch said. “And hopefully there’s more wins here at the Brickyard and bigger wins in the series yet for me.”
As important, the victory moved Busch to within 23 points of 30th place in the Sprint Cup standings, where he needs to be to qualify for the Chase.
3 Consecutive victories for Kyle Busch
Any discussion of Busch competing in the Chase – or even racing again this season – would have seemed silly just a few months ago. But after a waiver from NASCAR allowed him the chance to compete for a spot in the Chase (rules state that only drivers who compete in every race are eligible), Busch has become not only a contender to make the postseason, but to win his first championship, as well.
Busch was typically defiant in defending his potential spot in the Chase.
“It’s not like I didn’t want to be there, but my team was still there, and we’re going to go on and compete for a championship, and if we win a championship, then it’s not that they’re going to take it away from me,” Busch said. “It is what it is.
“As far as right now, (New England Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady is going to be suspended for the first four games of the season, and then he’s probably going to go on and compete for a championship and might even win the Super Bowl. I doubt anybody is going to take away a Super Bowl championship from that gentleman, so more power to him.”
23 Points out of 30th place in Cup standings
Busch led 19 laps Sunday and overcame three late cautions, the last of which forced the overtime. Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 75 laps, finished third and maintained his points lead.
“Joey was fast,” said Busch, the first Toyota driver to win at Indianapolis. “He drafted on me a couple of times, but if you just protect the bottom and not let that guy get a chance inside of you, you’re really going to mess him up. That’s what I had to do in order to win this thing.”
The victory checked off another box of “big races won” for Busch over his career. He also has won the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C., the night race in Bristol, Tenn., and at his home track in Las Vegas. Still left to win of what he called racing’s “top four races” are the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And, of course, a Sprint Cup title.
4 Wins for Busch in 9 starts since returning from injury
Now, he’s close to being able to pursue that with a berth in the Chase in sight. At Busch’s rapid rate, he could enter the top 30 next weekend at Pocono or the following weekend at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Whenever, Busch has six races to make up the deficit.
“You think you’re probably out of the Chase?” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “All those guys (on the team). You look in their eyes and, hey, there’s no backing up. They were after it all the way: If we get Kyle back – when we get Kyle back – we’ve got a chance.
“It’s not a very good one, but it’s just worked out unbelievably.”