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Kyle Busch's goal now: Stay in the Top 30

Posted On Thursday, 13 August 2015 20:00 Written by
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A mere 11 races after returning from a broken leg and foot suffered in February, Kyle Busch has cracked the top 30 in the points standings and is now eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Busch will qualify for NASCAR’s playoffs if he can remain in the top 30 at the end of next month’s Richmond race. 

Busch currently mans the 30th spot in the driver standings, six points ahead of 31st-place Cole Whitt and one point behind 29th-place Justin Allgaier.

The No. 18 Toyota driver started off slow with just one top-10 finish in his first four races back (Pocono), but has been on an absolute tear since, winning four of the last seven races along with a runner-up.

Over the last seven races Busch has dominated a majority of the statistical categories, leading the series in wins (4), driver rating (116.3), laps led (317) and points (283). No other driver has multiple wins during the span. Brad Keselowski’s 209 laps led marks the next-best total, while Kevin Harvick’s 107.5 driver rating is the second highest. The 283 points are 22 more than Joey Logano’s second-best total (261).

Busch’s run of wins has overshadowed the consistency of some other drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Harvick and Joey Logano rank tied with Busch with five top-five finishes over the seven-race span.

Furthermore, Harvick and Kurt Busch lead with six top 10s each in the last seven races compared to Busch’s five. Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth also claim five top 10s.

Brad Keselowski – The Michigan Missile

Brad Keselowski has won a lot of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
To be exact, he’s visited Victory Lane 17 times at 12 different tracks.
One track Keselowski has failed to conquer is his home state track – Michigan International Speedway.

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will try to become the ninth active driver to win in his home state, joining Kyle Busch (Nevada), Jeff Gordon (California), Jimmie Johnson (California), Kevin Harvick (California), Aric Almirola (Florida), Ryan Newman (Indiana), Tony Stewart (Indiana) and Denny Hamlin (Virginia).

Bowyer’s Back In Town And Ready For A 10th Straight Michigan Top 10
Here’s a quick NASCAR trivia question that will probably stump you. 

Q: Who owns the longest active top-10 streak at a specific track and which venue is it?
A: This might surprise you. And it’s kind of a trick question. There’s a tie, and Clint Bowyer owns both streaks. Bowyer has nine consecutive top 10s at both Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
Bowyer will get the chance again to notch a 10th straight top 10 at the two-mile track in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. The No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Driver will need it as he tries to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Bowyer holds the final points spot (50 points above the cutoff line), but could get bumped if there’s a new winner. The last driver with 10 consecutive top 10s at a track was Jimmie Johnson, who did it at Kansas in October of 2013.

Another driver who racks up consecutive top 10s at Michigan?

Paul Menard.
The No. 27 Richard Childress Racing driver has four straight top 10s in the Great Lakes State, including three fourth-place finishes in a row from Aug. 2013-Aug. 2014.

Michigan – Greg Biffle’s Playground
Currently 19th on the Chase Grid and 80 points out of the final spot, Greg Biffle essentially must win to get into NASCAR’s playoffs.
Luckily for him, he’s headed to the right place this weekend – Michigan International Speedway.
MIS has been Biffle’s personal playground over the years. He leads active drivers with four wins there and his 10 top fives and 15 top 10s are his most at any track. Biffle won consecutive races at Michigan by taking the checkered flag in the August 2012 race and June 2013 event. His team owner Jack Roush boasts a track record 13 wins at Michigan.

Fight for remaining Chase spots heating up

Just four races remain in the regular season for drivers to secure a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. A win in any of the next four races would secure a driver one of the five remaining spots in the Chase. Otherwise, he or she has to qualify based on points.
If the season ended today Aric Almirola would be the first driver out with the following drivers above him making the Chase: Jamie McMurray (+73), Paul Menard (+60), Jeff Gordon (+58), Ryan Newman (+51), Clint Bowyer (+50).
McMurray and Menard have never made NASCAR’s playoffs before.
In the blink of an eye, playoff spots vanished at Watkins Glen.

That’s exactly what happened when Joey Logano won his second race of the season. In addition, Kevin Harvick’s strong finish (combined with Jamie McMurray’s subpar one) guaranteed that the regular season points leader will have at least one win. (Note: Harvick didn’t clinch the regular season points lead. But, he did ensure that only the drivers who already have wins can overtake him.)
Those two events all led to this: Aside from Kyle Busch, all drivers with at least one win have locked up a spot in the Chase, assuming they start the remaining races in the regular season.
In all, 10 spots are spoken for. Six are still up for grabs (and if Kyle Busch stays in the top 30, five).
And with 11 different winners, and only four regular season races remaining, it also means that at least one winless driver will earn a Chase spot.
But it won’t happen this weekend. The only driver who can clinch a Chase spot on Sunday at Michigan will be the winner of the race, as long as he or she has also clinched a top 30 spot (a clinching driver needs to have a win and a 145-point lead over 31st in order to lock up a spot).

Big Weekend For Brad Keselowski Racing
It's a big weekend for Brad Keselowski Racing as its team sponsor hosts Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). Series points leader Tyler Reddick and NASCAR Next alum Ryan Blaney will represent the team in the No. 19 and No. 29 Fords, respectively. Reddick claims two wins this season and leads second-place Matt Crafton in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings by 11. Blaney has made two NCWTS starts this year, finishing seventh at Dover and third at Kentucky.

Michigan Man: Erik Jones Set To Make First Start In Home State
If new Michigan Wolverines Head Coach Jim Harbaugh had to recruit NASCAR drivers, it would definitely be his No. 1 priority to keep Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones in state.

On Saturday, the NASCAR Next alum will make his first start at his hometown track (Michigan International Speedway) in the Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation.
Jones is right in the thick of the competition for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship at third in the point standings, trailing leader Tyler Reddick by 16 points and second-place Matt Crafton by five. He has one win this season and leads the NCWTS in many significant loop data categories, including average running position (4.2), laps led (656) and driver rating 124.3.

Sauter Goes For Michigan Repeat
Johnny Sauter returns to Michigan as the defending race winner after capturing the checkered flag at the two-mile track. Travis Kvapil is the only other driver to win at Michigan expected in Saturday's field. Repeating for Sauter will be a difficult task. The last 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan have produced 10 different race winners.
Sauter currently ranks fourth in the NCWTS standings, 59 points behind Tyler Reddick. He has four top fives and eight top 10s in 12 starts this season.

Alex Bowman Set To Make Truck Series Debut With JR Motorsports
Alex Bowman will become the fourth driver to sit behind the wheel of the JR Motorsports No. 00 Chevrolet in Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation. The 22-year-old full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing will make JRM's eighth start this season and try to improve on its totals of two wins (Cole Custer, Kasey Kahne) and four top-10 finishes. Kevin Harvick drove the No. 00 Chevrolet to a second-place finish in the last NCWTS race at Pocono. Bowman made two XFINITY Series starts for JRM last fall, finishing 12th at Charlotte and 17th at Phoenix.

Race information:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Next Race: Pure Michigan 400
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 16
The Time: 2:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBCSN, 2 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 400 miles (200 laps)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, Aug. 15
The Time: 1 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX Sports 1, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 200 miles (100 laps)

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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