Quick, raise your hand if you’re surprised to see Kurt Busch in a Chase position with just three races to go before the Chase?
(Writer’s hand is in the air.)
However, like many of you, I wouldn’t say I’m shocked to see the No. 78 Chevrolet ninth in the points at this point in the season.
It’s not as though, say, Danica Patrick is fighting for a position in NASCAR’s playoff.
What IS shocking, however, is the fact that Busch is ahead of some big names in top-notch equipment. Guys like Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Greg Biffle to name a few. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin also find themselves lower down in the standings, though for injury-related reasons.
We’ve known all along that Kurt is a world-class driver. And we’ve even known that the Furniture Row machine is capable of putting together a good run and even going to Victory Lane (something Busch has yet to accomplish during his tenure there).
What we didn’t know was whether the volatile Busch was capable of maintaining his cool throughout a full season running for a second- (or even third-) tier team, weathering the inevitable disappointments of blown engines and other equipment-related issues (early in the season) and untimely wrecks (more recently).
After all, it was Busch’s hot temper and lack of self-control that caused him to lose desirable rides first at Roush Fenway Racing (the year after winning a championship, no less) and then at Penske Racing.
But somehow, Busch has managed to bounce back from every obstacle and continue putting together quality runs. Many fans, myself included, have developed a new respect for Busch while seeing him accomplish the improbable in putting himself in position to make the Chase as the regular season winds down.
Whether or not the No. 78 will make the Chase for the first time is still very much up in the air. Each week brings a reshuffling of the names around the Chase cutoff point, and as Busch pointed out a few weeks ago, a driver just inside the top ten is one bad day away from 14th or 15th position.
But with Busch currently in position to make the Chase, and with some good tracks for him coming up in the next few weeks, I’d give him better than 50/50 odds at making the Chase.
And I, for one, never saw this coming.
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