Just when it appeared Kyle Busch would finally break the jinx that has cursed him in virtually every Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance he's made in his career, catastrophe struck yet again on Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
(Not coincidentally, Busch's least-successful track on the Sprint Cup Series, I might add.)
Prior to Kansas, the fourth of 10 races in this year's Chase, Busch had been off to the best start in NASCAR's marquee playoffs of his career. He finished runner-up in the first two races (Chicago and New Hampshire) and was fifth last Sunday at Dover.
But it was a completely different story Sunday at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. The younger Busch brother wrecked three—count 'em, three times—during the race.
There was the incident on the opening lap with Danica Patrick. While he missed the sliding wreckage of Patrick's car, Busch inadvertently suffered minor damage to his car in the process. This came after Busch destroyed his primary car in a Saturday practice wreck, relegating him to start Sunday's race in the back of the field with his back-up car.
Are Kyle Busch's championship hopes all but finished after his terrible day at Kansas?
Then there was the wild spin Busch took after being punted by Juan Pablo Montoya.
While he managed to survive the first two and keep racing, the third strike knocked him out of the game entirely—when Carl Edwards couldn't avoid hitting a slowing Busch in the rear end, triggering a hard wreck that ended Busch's day with an ignominious 34th-place finish.
As a result, Busch fell from third to fifth place in the Sprint Cup standings, going from 12 to 35 points behind series leader, and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth.
While that may seem like a not-so-insurmountable margin, think again. There's only six races left in the Chase to crown a champion, and Busch is now the equivalent of more than two-thirds of a race behind, points-wise, heading into Saturday night's race at Charlotte.
(A place, I might note, that Busch has never won at.)
That's a lot of points to any Chase driver.
If this were the middle of the 26-race regular season, Busch's drop in the points wouldn't be as significant or important as Sunday's was. With Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson holding serve Sunday, and Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch having strong finishes (not to mention race winner Kevin Harvick), the younger Busch brother finds himself in a very familiar spot.
Namely, one more bad finish like Sunday and his Chase hopes are all but finished.
Just like they were in 2006 (finished 10th), 2007 (fifth), 2008 (10th again), 2010 (eighth) and 2011 (12th). He failed to qualify for the Chase in 2005, 2009 and 2012.
There's only one way Busch can get back into the Chase battle, and that's to win Saturday at Charlotte, no ifs, ands or buts.
If he doesn't, he faces the prospect of then trying to do so at Talladega, which is without question his second-worst track on the Cup circuit.
Sure, he has one win there, but in 17 starts at the 2.66-mile Superspeedway, Busch has just four top-10 finishes (including the win in spring 2008).
As a point of reference about Talladega, while he finished second and third in both races there last season, sandwiched around that were finishes of 25th, 35th and 33rd in the three races before and 37th in this year's spring race.
Sunday at Kansas was a punch-out of Busch. If you're a KyBusch fan, start praying now that he doesn't get a complete knock out at Charlotte—because right now he's on the ropes and wobbling.
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