Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick may be in the Eliminator Round of the Chase thanks to wins in the last two weeks.
But look who’s proven to be the “best of the rest” among the remaining Chasers: Kyle Busch, who has built up a 26-point cushion going into Sunday’s elimination race at Talladega.
Quite frankly, that’s an impressive turnaround from where he and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team were at the tail end of the regular season.
How many of us were thinking that Busch would do well in the Chase while he was in the middle of that horrendous four-race stretch in August (42nd at Pocono, 40th at Watkins Glen, 39th at Michigan, 36th at Bristol) – a stretch that included him and crew chief Dave Rogers going at each other over the radio in Thunder Valley?
The results weren’t coming. The chemistry was seemingly shot. And Busch seemed destined for an early post-season exit.
Instead, Busch has rattled off runs of seventh, eighth, 10th, third, and fifth in the first five Chase races.
You can’t help but think of Marvin the Martian: “Where’s the Kaboom? There’s supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!”
It’s not happening. Even though Busch and JGR can’t quite match up on pure speed with the Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske drivers, they’re doing what they have to do to get deeper into this Chase.
“It wasn’t a win – which is what we really want – but it’s another solid finish for us,” Busch said after leading 41 laps en route to his fifth-place run in Charlotte on Saturday night. “We just need to go to Talladega next week and try to avoid the ‘Big One’.”
After sitting on the pole and leading the first 13 laps, Busch gradually faded to the lower reaches of the Top 10. But under caution at Lap 135, Rogers called for a big adjustment – an added left-rear spring rubber and a wedge removal – that proved to work well for Busch as he charged back into the Top 5.
“These things are so finicky on pit stops,” Busch continued. “It’s been that way all year long for us. Little adjustments just didn’t help us tonight. We made that one big change, and the car really took off for us.”
And now, the 18 camp is one more strong result away from getting to the Eliminator Round – a possibility that seemed quite remote not too long ago.