Soon after Kyle Busch announced his return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing in May for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, making the Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte, on May 24 his first points-paying Cup race of 2015 after being sidelined by a broken right leg and left foot from a crash in the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February, NASCAR announced that Busch would retain Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility. That meant Busch would get into the Chase if he could win at least one race and be in the top-30 of the championship points standings at the end of race 26 — a September date at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, despite missing 11 races. With the announcement, NASCAR granted Busch a waiver, waiving the rule thaat stipulates drivers must attempt to qualify for all regular season races, with exceptions to possibly be made at NASCAR’s discretion for special circumstances (injury, etc.).
Waivers had previously been granted to the likes of Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, and Kyle’s brother Kurt, but those drivers had only missed a few races, three at most when they were granted their waivers. Kurt Busch’s waiver brought debate because his races were missed because of a NASCAR suspension. While Kyle Busch missed races because of injury, his waiver also was controversial, because he missed so races. Racing for a championship after missing 11 races? Why, the idea of that was (and probably still is) ludicrous to some.
Of course, it could be said that we’re putting the cart before the horse, here. He’s not in the Chase, at least not yet. And when the announcement of his waiver was made, a lot of naysayers proclaimed that it wouldn’t happen; Busch was starting to deep in a whole.
Well, it may happen and it may not. He did get over that one hurdle. He won the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Mission #1 = win a race. Check. Don’t forget, though; he still has to be in the top-30 come Richmond, or more specificially, at the checkered flag at Richmond. Busch has 10 races to get into the top-30.
“We have our work cut out for us. We knew we did in the beginning, and I knew we put us in the hole in points,” Busch said after his win Sunday. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a couple crashes. I hate it for my guys. They don’t deserve to be in that spot. They have certainly worked hard all year long.”
The move into the top-30 may be a difficult one, but of course, it’s not impossible, especially when you consider who we’re talking about. This is Kyle Busch for crying out loud.
Busch left Sonoma 37th in the points standings with a grand total of 125 points. That puts him 136 points behind current 30th-place driver Cole Whitt. Drivers between Busch and Whitt include Justin Allgaier, Brett Moffitt, Alex Bowman, Michael Annett, Josh Wise and Matt DiBenedetto. Nothing against these guys and their race teams, but I see Busch disposing of the seven guys in the next 10 weeks.
When Busch’s waiver was first announced, while I thought Busch could very well return to victory lane before the Chase, I assumed he was in too big of a hole to be able to make a win even matter when it came to a Chase berth. Even immediately following his win a couple days ago, I changed my opinion to more along the lines of doable but unlikely. But that was before I took a close look at the standings in and around Busch’s neighborhood. Now, I’m thinking this may very well happen, folks.
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