A total of 16 events remain on the 2015 schedule, yet the countdown to the season finale is well underway. Evidence of this is the series’ second visits to a number of upcoming tracks. This weekend’s race isn’t the first return visit of the season for the Sprint Cup competitors, but it is the first of 12 repeat appearances that will make up the next 16 weeks of racing.
There’s still a lot of racing left. A champion has yet to be crowned. NASCAR’s version of the playoffs – the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship – is still six weeks away and all of the 16 drivers who will compete for the championship have yet to be determined. But, the field of title contenders is beginning to come into focus.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will be one of the 16 drivers in the Chase field.
Already having scored multiple wins this season, at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in April and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn last month, Busch now has accumulated enough points to mathematically guarantee a spot in the top-30 in the driver standings through the regular-season finale Sept. 12 at Richmond.
While Busch had hoped to have a better result in last Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he had an impressive eighth-place finish after overcoming a flat tire early in the race. It was his first top-10 at the iconic speedway since 2010, and the finish put Busch 298 points ahead of the driver listed 31st in the standings, making him just the fourth driver to have clinched a berth in the 2015 Chase.
Now that the Las Vegas native knows he’ll be making his ninth career and third consecutive appearance in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff, he can turn his focus to going all out and racing for additional wins in the final six regular-season events. Additional victories would move Busch ahead in the postseason ranking, as the 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase have their points total reset to 2,000 and will be seeded based on bonus points – three per win – earned prior to the start of the Chase.
The quest to secure additional wins and those valuable bonus points starts this weekend at Pocono for Busch and Company.
Busch is one driver who not only has plenty of experience at Pocono, he has also experienced plenty of success along the way. He’s a two-time Pocono winner and also has 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s to augment his impressive stats in 28 career starts at the 2.5-mile triangle. Busch has led laps in 17 of those races, including a record-setting 175 circuits spent atop the leaderboard en route to his win in August 2007. He finished fifth when the series visited Pocono in June.
Busch’s solid performance statistics extend beyond tradition and into some pretty stout loop data numbers as he ranks in the top-five in a several categories at the Tricky Triangle, including laps led, fastest laps run, speed in traffic, green-flag speed and average running position. Add it all up and it equates to a third-place driver rating, placing Busch behind only six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who’s second, and perennial Pocono favorite Denny Hamlin, who’s first.
With the start of the Chase just six races away, Busch and the Haas Automation team are determined to race their way back to victory lane, and there’s no better place to start than this weekend at Pocono.
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