Kyle Busch ready to claim his ‘second’ Sprint Cup championship

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JOLIET, Ill. – Kyle Busch believes he can win his second Sprint Cup championship in 2014.

Wait a minute, when did he win his first? Did we miss something somewhere?

Not quite.

Busch believes that if he had made the 2012 Chase, he would have won it all – not the real champ of that season, Brad Keselowski.

“In 2012, I’m the champion in this current format,” Busch said. “My worst year ever and miss the Chase, with three engine blow-ups in a row in the summer. And then we ran well enough in the Chase that we would have won the championship.”

Busch’s numbers are spot-on. Had he made the Chase that season, he would have beaten Keselowski for the crown based upon seven top-five and one top-10 in the 10 Chase races that season.

And then comes the irony: Busch would not have made this year’s Chase had it not been for a new rule that at least one win all but guarantees a driver a Chase berth. He earned that win early in the season at Fontana, Calif.

“If it was under the old format, I predict we would have missed the Chase this year,” said Busch, who earned a career-best finish in the Chase last season (finished fourth). “Even with the win, I don’t think we would have been in the wildcard position in order to make the Chase this year.

“That shows just how different this is and what the differences are to make the Chase, and how it opens up more opportunities like our team, Kurt’s (brother Kurt Busch’s) team, the 43 (Aric Almirola) and the 47 (A.J. Allmendinger) as well to make the Chase.”

Busch knows he, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota as a whole have to substantially pick up their games in the Chase.

Busch has just one win in the regular season, while JGR has two in total (one by Busch, the other by teammate Denny Hamlin).

That doesn’t exactly make Toyota an overwhelming favorite in the championship battle when you consider Chevrolet has 14 wins thus far and Ford 10.

“The biggest thing for us and Joe Gibbs Racing is we know we have to get better,” Busch said. “We have to elevate our game a little bit and know we can do that because there are other teams that are out-performing us.

“Now whether or not those teams that are performing at their best can elevate their games remains to be seen, but there’s room for our growth and hopefully we can do that this weekend in Chicago.”

Surprisingly, while Busch likes his chances in the Chase, he’s not picking himself or teammates Matt Kenseth or Denny Hamlin as his personal picks to win it all.

“The 2 (Brad Keselowski), 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 24 (Jeff Gordon), they’re your favorites, obviously,” Busch said. “And from there it’s the 22 (Joey Logano) and 48 (Jimmie Johnson) as your next two, and from there everybody else is pretty much the same. We all have to figure it out.

“I didn’t mention the JGR cars because I feel like we are still behind a little bit. Hopefully, we can start changing that around this weekend at Chicago, and if we do, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. I’m just basing that off the first 26 (races).”

Busch’s strategy going into the Chase is fairly simple.

“To have the 15th or better (position) in each of those three weeks, you’re going to move (up), that’s pretty simple, I think,” he said. “And then you have to (finish) 10th or better in the next round in order to move on to the next (round) if you don’t have wins.

“From there, it’s going to get tougher. If there’s three different winners at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, there’s only going to be one guy that doesn’t have a win that gets to move on (to the championship race).”

Busch enters the Chase not exactly riding a wave of momentum. After finishing 42nd, 40th, 39th and 36th from Pocono through Bristol, he’s managed to climb back with finishes of 16th and 14th at Atlanta and Richmond, respectively.

“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Busch said. “It’s just been all over the board. These races are all so tight, they’re never over until they’re over.”

Still, those last two finishes are a start.

“We know what we need to do,” Busch said. “There’s not necessarily a plan of attack, but there is an idea of what we need to accomplish in the next three and then six weeks.

“We have an opportunity to be a winner every single week. There’s not a racetrack that we go to that I can’t win at or the team’s not capable of winning at. If we put it all together, we will win it.

“It’s anybody’s game right now. There’s 16 guys that have the opportunity. So, may the best man and the best team win.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

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Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


RESULTS

Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


POINTS

Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:

Drivers

Entrants

Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.