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Mission Accomplished: Busch Bags A Berth

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, September 7 2015
It was a big night at Darlington Raceway for a lot of reasons on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

It was a big night at Darlington Raceway for a lot of reasons on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Some notes and thoughts from Sunday night’s Southern 500 at what appeared to be a very fan-packed Darlington Raceway:

– Kyle Busch completed his Chase chase after finishing seventh at Darlington. The points he bugnotesearned locked him in to the top 30 and, thus, enabled the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to meet the special playoff berth-securing criteria NASCAR had set for him after he missed the first 11 races of the season with broken bones in his legs.

“Making the Chase was something we weren’t all sure was possible after my injuries,” Busch said. “It’s a great opportunity to be with these guys on this M&M’S Crispy team. They’re working really hard at Joe Gibbs Racing – we’ve got a lot of speed and I think all four cars have a really good shot at this championship. I had my hands full tonight. I think I just got a little behind on what our adjustments needed to be for the race, but our whole team just really turned this thing around and it turned out to be a solid finish for us.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs sounded very relieved about getting Busch and his car into the Chase and doing it with one race left before the playoffs begin at Chicagoland Speedway in two weeks.

“I think that’s also a great sports story,” the former NFL coach said. “Everything that happened to us there at Daytona and then for him to bounce back in 11 weeks, I felt like the odds were against us.  And for him to be able to pull this off and come back, win four times and

Kyle Busch will join Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in this year's playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Kyle Busch will join Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in this year’s playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

get back in the Chase tonight – they had a great game plan, Adam and Kyle.  They talked all night about the game plan, what they wanted to do, and first up was to make sure that they had enough points tonight that they didn’t have to worry next week.”

How far has Furniture Row Racing come this year? That is, beyond the 2,000 or so miles from their shop in Colorado to the Southeastern home of NASCAR?

After finishing ninth – a finish that gave driver Martin Truex Jr. his team-record 17th top-10 finish in 25 starts in 2015 – Truex was steamed.

“We lost the handling late in the race and went backwards,” he said. “We were a top-five car all

Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing keep piling up top-10s. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing keep piling up top-10s. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

night and to come away ninth is disappointing. We just didn’t have the grip at the end to run closer to the front. I would feel better about the team record had we finished in the top-five.”

Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle had an interesting take on the low-downforce aero and tire package that was implemented at Darlington.

I remember when I was a kid and my dad wanted to teach me how to drive a car, and he gave me a stick shift,” Biffle said. “You practice and you learn and you learn how to drive it and you stall it out all the time and then eventually you kind of start to figure it out and you stop stalling it so much and you get into a pattern and you don’t stall it out anymore. Then for whatever reason you get a car with an automatic and you drive that for five or six years and you get back in a car with a stick shift or a manual, and you stall it out all over again, and you keep stalling it out and you have to get back in the routine.

“The race reminded me a lot of that because the cars, just five or six years ago when I entered Sprint Cup, were extremely difficult to drive, much like a stick shift when you’re first learning how to drive. Then they’ve gotten really easy to drive over the last four or five years, to the point where we’re all kind of looking around at each other as drivers going, wait a minute here, this isn’t good, it shouldn’t be this easy to drive these. So we asked NASCAR to, make these cars harder to drive, give us our, metaphorically speaking, stick shift back, and they did, and I think somebody thought they’d be really funny and pick Darlington as the track to do that, which would be like if you picked the mountains of Virginia to give somebody a stick shift back.  It’s kind of that same feeling. Kind of metaphorically speaking I think there was a lot of people that stalled it out today.”

Eleven drivers will start next weekend’s final “regular season” race already locked into the Chase playoffs. Those drives are Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

That leaves five spots up for grabs at Richmond next week.

As it stands today, those five drivers are Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

Looking to blow past one of those drivers are Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson.

McMurray, at least, is putting safety first as he goes for his first-ever Chase berth.

“Yeah, honestly for the last 10 weeks we have been racing … literally if you don’t have a car that can win you are just trying to get the most points you can,” he said after Darlington. “We had an okay car tonight.  I was super conservative.  My radio only worked about two percent of the time.  So, I had a spotter sometimes, but I didn’t others.  I was really conservative on restarts and really throughout the whole race.”




| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, September 7 2015
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