ThatsRacin

Kyle Busch wins at New Hampshire for 2nd straight Cup victory

Kyle Busch is in position to not only compete for the Sprint Cup series championship, but win it. As implausible as it sounds considering how his season started, it appears more possible as each race weekend goes by.
Kyle Busch is in position to not only compete for the Sprint Cup series championship, but win it. As implausible as it sounds considering how his season started, it appears more possible as each race weekend goes by. AP

Forget about missing the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup Series season.

Forget about the fact he still remains outside the top 30 of driver points, which is a requirement to make the Chase.

Kyle Busch is in position to not only compete for the series championship, but win it.

As implausible as it sounds considering how his season started, it appears more possible as each race weekend goes by.

Sunday’s victory in the 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is just the latest reminder.

Busch’s win is his third in the past four races. He has competed in eight races since returning from injuries sustained in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona in February.

Crew chief Adam Stevens, whose first race working with Busch in the Cup series was only eight races ago, seems on board with the idea.

“Even while Kyle was gone, I feel like we’ve shown that we have speed and we have solid cars,” he said. “Since Kyle’s come back, maybe it’s put a little bit more speed in them.

“To that point, with the Chase format, with the eliminations, then it all coming down to one race, if we can keep our head on our shoulders and get in first, then continue to prepare good cars and execute, I think we can (win the title).”

It’s certainly true that while Busch has not been one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR during his career, the comeback story he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team are writing this season rivals many in sports.

“It’s a very unusual dynamic, and certainly in sports we all love it because you can have great victories, you can have great defeats,” team owner Joe Gibbs said.

“We had a real terrible thing happen to us at Daytona. We come all the way back after 11 weeks. To be able to get three wins here is really special.”

Busch’s victory Sunday leaves him 58 points outside the top 30 with seven races to make up the margin. At this rate, he would lock himself into the Chase well before the Sept. 12 cutoff race at Richmond, Va.

“Everything is working in our favor right now,” Busch said. “We’re doing the right things at the right times. Adam is making some really good adjustments and some really good calls.

“Today we may not have been the best car, we were early, but towards the end, I’m not sure that we were. We put ourselves in the right spot to be able to capitalize.

“Sometimes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series you got to be able to do that. Today was one of those opportunities for us.”

A possible tire problem late in the race forced Busch to make his final pit stop under green-flag conditions and off-sequence from the rest of the leaders.

He deftly passed then-leader Brad Keselowski to get back on the lead lap before a caution on Lap 252 for fluid on the track sent the rest of the field to pit road for their final stops.

Busch remained on the track and inherited the lead. Although Keselowski cut the margin significantly in the final laps, he never was able to threaten Busch’s lead before a caution on the final lap locked in Busch’s victory.

“Brad was fast at the end. He started to run us back down,” Busch said. We’ve got work to do to get our stuff better – I’m not sure we’re maximizing everything we need.

“I think I’ve got some good ideas about that. We’d like to get our cars better on the long run.”

Kyle Busch even faster?

That’s even more for his fellow competitors to worry about if he makes the 16-driver Chase field.

While doing a question-and-answer session on Twitter after the race, six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson made reference to Busch’s recent performance.

“By the way, slow it down Kyle Busch!” he wrote.

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