RICHMOND, Va. – With the season on the line to qualify for the Chase playoffs, Kurt Busch and the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing saved the best for last, and in the process made history.
Thanks to an impressive season-best runner-up finish in the final pre-Chase race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, Busch secured a post-season playoff berth. The feat will go into the record books as the first driver from a single-car team to qualify for the Chase since the 10-race, 12-driver championship format began in 2004.
Team owner Barney Visser was equally elated during a post-race news conference.
“I don’t know if it’s a dream come true as much as I’m kind of in awe of Kurt and Joe (Garone, general manager) and the whole team and what these guys have been able to do,” said Visser. “They put in a lot of hard work and a lot of hours and it’s incredible what they were able to do.”
Busch ended the 26-race regular season eighth in driver points, but was reseeded to 10th. Each Chase driver starts with 2000 points, An additional three points are awarded to drivers (excluding the two wildcard entries) for each victory during the first 26 races.
Matt Kenseth, a five-time season winner, heads into the Chase as the leader with 2015 points, 15 more than Busch. The first Chase race is next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. (See Chase standings below)
Busch’s performance in the pressure-cooker race was nearly flawless. He started on the outside and his No. 78 Furniture Row/Beautyrest Chevrolet rode in the top-five for almost the entire 400 laps. He also led five different times for 73 laps.
The second-place result was Busch’s eighth top-five and 13th top-10 finish of the season.
“This feels incredible,” said Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion. “The way that we worked together as a team – it’s amazing that we have come this far and put ourselves in this position. We came close tonight, but haven’t won a race yet this year.
“I was happy to guide the ship, but I had a great skipper, the way that Todd Berrier (crew chief) led this group into the off season last year and the way Todd followed Barney Visser’s dream. We are in the Chase and we have a shot at the championship so we are not done yet. It feels great to deliver and to achieve something very special tonight.”
The Federated Auto Parts 400 race winner was Carl Edwards. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Busch, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The race had 17 lead changes among nine drivers and five cautions for 29 laps.
Chase Point Standings:
1. Matt Kenseth, 2015 points
2. Jimmy Johnson, 2012
3. Kyle Busch, 2012
4. Kevin Harvick, 2006
5. Carl Edwards, 2006
6. Joey Logano, 2003
7. Greg Biffle, 2003
8. Clint Bowyer, 2000
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2000
10. Kurt Busch, 2000
11. Kasey Kahne, 2000
12. Martin Truex Jr., 2000
Furniture Row Racing