WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Kyle Busch’s dream season isn’t likely to turn into a nightmare anytime soon. The Las Vegas native will start from the pole today in the Centurion Boats at The Glen, attempting to make NASCAR history and gain a little peace of mind.
Busch has won 15 races in NASCAR’s top three series this season — seven in Sprint Cup, six in Nationwide and two in trucks — and two came on road courses. He won the Nationwide race in Mexico in April and the Cup race at Sonoma (Calif.) in June. No driver in NASCAR history has won three road races in one season, and only Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon have swept both Cup events in the same year.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work from everyone on the team,” said Busch, starting up front in his fourth race here because qualifying was rained out and the field was set by points. “That win at Sonoma wasn’t easy at all. Once the green flag falls, you’ve just got to stick to your strategy and hope everything works out in your favor.”
A victory by Busch also would clinch his spot in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup title, which begins after the next five races.
“You go out there and run as hard as you can to see what you’ve got,” said Busch, who had to pit for fuel with a lap to go last week at Pocono and finished 36th. “Whether we win or whether we run out of gas just doesn’t matter at this point. We’ve got to win.”
The top 12 drivers in the standings after 26 races will race for the Sprint Cup title, and the points for every driver will be reset at 5,000. But each win counts for an extra 10 points once the Chase begins. With his seven wins, Busch has 70 bonus points, which gives him a 40-point cushion over Carl Edwards.
None of the contenders wants to see that cushion grow between now and the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire in mid-September.
“It’s important, especially for the first two or three races (of the Chase) when everybody is so worried about the points and where you’re at,” said Jimmie Johnson, who had six victories when last year’s Chase began and won four more times to win his second straight Cup title. “It really buys you some sleep and peace of mind at the start of the Chase.”
The top 12 drivers in points qualify for the Chase, and seventh through 14th are so close that the bottom of the field could change every week between now and the Sept. 6 event at Richmond, the final race before the Chase.
Denny Hamlin is among those in the middle of it. He’s 10th in points, 27 points ahead of 11th-place Kevin Harvick and 35 points ahead of 12th-place Clint Bowyer.
“We’ve just got to get back on track,” said Hamlin, who has three finishes outside the top 20 in the past four races. “We’ve got to get at least two weeks in a row to get good finishes to solidify our place.”Centurion Boats at the Glen Lineup
At Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Lap length: 2.45 miles
Qualifying rained out Friday;
field set by Cup series points
(Car number in parentheses)
1. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota
2. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
3. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
5. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet
6. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
7. (9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge
8. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford
9. (20) Tony Stewart, Toyota
10. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota
11. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet
12. (07) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet
13. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford
14. (6) David Ragan, Ford
15. (8) Aric Almirola, Chevrolet
16. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge
17. (83) Brian Vickers, Toyota
18. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet
19. (2) Kurt Busch, Dodge
20. (26) Jamie McMurray, Ford
21. (43) Bobby Labonte, Dodge
22. (19) Elliott Sadler, Dodge
23. (28) Travis Kvapil, Ford
24. (5) Casey Mears, Chevrolet
25. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge
26. (38) David Gilliland, Ford
27. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet
28. (44) David Reutimann, Toyota
29. (22) Dave Blaney, Toyota
30. (41) Reed Sorenson, Dodge
31. (7) Robby Gordon, Dodge
32. (01) Ron Fellows, Chevrolet
33. (55) Michael Waltrip, Toyota
34. (77) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge
35. (66) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet
36. (00) Michael McDowell, Toyota
37. (84) AJ Allmendinger, Toyota
38. (96) P.J. Jones, Toyota
39. (10) Patrick Carpentier
40. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge
41. (78) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet
42. (70) Max Papis, Chevrolet
43. (21) Marcos Ambrose, Ford
Failed to qualify
44. (34) Brian Simo, Ford
45. (60) Boris Said, Ford