With five races to reduce a 37-point deficit, Kyle Busch got almost a third of the way there at Talladega Superspeedway by recovering from a lap down to finish fifth in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500.
Busch entered the race in fifth place. He goes to Martinsville Speedway third, 26 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. The math says it’s definitely doable.
Realistically, Busch must finish higher than Johnson and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in the post season’s remaining four events. Beating Johnson at Martinsville is the first – and perhaps the biggest – challenge. An eight-time Martinsville winner, Johnson goes for three victories in a row .
Busch, however, has yet to win at Martinsville. He finished second last fall and ran fifth in April’s race in which he led 56 laps. Busch’s average Martinsville finish is 16.1.
Kevin Harvick continues to contend for the championship, standing fourth and scoring the same number of points as Busch – 2,228. The Bakersfield, Calif. veteran, in his final season in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, has a Martinsville victory. The spring 2011 rates as the pinnacle on an up-and-down resume at the southern Virginia track.
Harvick has just three top fives and an average finish of 16.6. He was 32nd at Martinsville a year ago and 13th when the series visited in the spring.
Statistically speaking, this should be the best opportunity for Jeff Gordon to put a dent in the lead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Gordon is fifth in the standings, 34 points behind Johnson. His most recent of seven Martinsville victories came in 2005 when Gordon scored a season sweep. Gordon was seventh in last year’s fall race and third in April. His Martinsville Driver Rating (120.7) and average finish (7.0) rank second only to Johnson.