Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How can Kyle Busch still make the Chase?

Kyle Busch is going to have to dominate to make Chase
Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday morning that driver Kyle Busch will return behind the wheel of the team’s No. 18 Toyota Camry, beginning this weekend in the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch has missed the first 11 races of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after suffering a compound fracture of his right lower leg and a left mid-foot fracture in an accident during the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

One of the biggest questions out there today is in regards to whether Busch can qualify for The Chase this season. NASCAR answered some of those questions on Wednesday morning, releasing a statement stating that Busch will qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by meeting all requirements of eligibility excluding Rule, which requires a driver to start all Championship Events of the current season.

“Our decision to grant Kyle a waiver that allows him to continue running for a championship is one we discussed extensively. The spirit of the rule never was designed to punish drivers who are unable to compete due to extenuating circumstances such as recovering from a racing accident,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

Given past precedence, where NASCAR has granted this waiver to Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers, among others, this decision makes sense. The argument can be made that Busch’s circumstance is different, giving he has missed 42% of the regular season, but let’s look at what else Busch will need to do over the balance of the regular season.

The next step for Busch is to win one of the remaining 15 races before The Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway in September. Those 15 races will take place on 13 different tracks, of which Busch has started 246 Sprint Cup Series races. Busch has 19 victories at those 13 tracks, including five at Bristol and four at Richmond. While it remains to be seen how Busch will perform with the current Sprint Cup rules package, the odds are in favor of the 30-year-old Busch getting to victory lane during the remainder of the regular season.

Even if Busch parks the No. 18 in victory lane at least once before the conclusion of Race No. 26, he will need to finish in the top 30 in the championship standings.

After Race No. 11 at Kansas, Tony Stewart occupies the 30th position in the championship standings with 179 points. Simply put, Busch would need to beat Stewart by an average of 12 positions over the remaining 15 races, and he would take over the 30th position. Obviously many variables are at play over the course of the next 15 races, including the fact that Stewart could reach victory lane and clinch his berth in the Chase. Yes, Stewart has struggled greatly this season, but he does have 27 career victories at those tracks remaining in the regular season.

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