Kurt Busch's lead shrunk a smidge after a disastrous performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend. Busch racked up his first DNF of the Chase for the Championship, blowing an engine in the early laps of the event. The technical miscue cost...
Kurt Busch's lead shrunk a smidge after a disastrous performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend. Busch racked up his first DNF of the Chase for the Championship, blowing an engine in the early laps of the event.
The technical miscue cost Busch points, but not as many as it could have. A slew of Chase racers had issues of their own, allowing Busch to maintain a healthy cushion of 59 points over the field.
"We felt blessed," said Busch. "With the problems the other teams had, and with the effort we had there. It was confusing on why we had such a problem so early. We went with a gear that would run less RPM's, that would enable us to run the high side and the low side, and then, of course we had some carburetor jetting that would enable us to have more fuel on a fuel-mileage run. So, it was confusing to have that kind of problem."
Busch can't afford to have any more problems this weekend.
Team 48 is breathing down the neck of the No. 97 team. With three consecutive wins by the Jimmie Johnson camp and a leap from ninth to second in rankings in four races; they have become the team to beat in the inaugural NEXTEL Chase for the Championship.
"We've got the point advantage," Busch said. "I would much rather be in this position.we know that we can take the conservative rout and still be able to win races, because that's what we're going to try and do this weekend with our mile set-up that we won New Hampshire with.
"I believe that there's more pressure on the second place guy, to be able to challenge himself, to be able to knock back the third, fourth and fifth- place guys, because I believe there's five guys within championship reach.
Indeed, it is a five man fight for the trophy. Just 98 points separate Busch, Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Of those five, only Johnson and Martin did not experience difficulties during the event. It is a crucial weekend for the front runners. The members of the current top five cannot afford any more screw-ups between now and the end of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in three weeks.
"It's been a great journey so far," Busch said. "It did take a blow in the points tally and it put us back in reach of all the rest of the competitors, which is a nice twist.
"It gives five to six guys the opportunity within the final three races an opportunity for the championship."
Even racers moving in on Busch, his lead still makes him a favorite to clinch the NEXTEL Cup, as long as last weekend was an anomaly and he is consistent over the final events of the season.
"This is still the best seat to be in," said Busch. "Us leading, we've got an advantage that the other people have to overcome and it's obviously the best position to be in."