Last weekend’s 26thNASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway marked the end of the “regular season” for Kyle Busch and 11 other drivers locked into the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
So, as the Sprint Cup Series kicks off its 10-week, 12-driver “playoff” starting Sunday with the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., what kind of changes will the driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) make in an effort to win his first Sprint Cup title? The answer: absolutely nothing.
Busch and the Doublemint team plan on doing what they’ve been doing all season long after having notched four wins, 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s, along with 1,102 laps led. Their philosophy for coming out on top over the final 10 races of the season is to not overhaul the approach that got them into the Chase during the first 26. And they’ll start their championship quest in the backyard of Chicago-based Wrigley and its Doublemint brand. A hometown win Sunday would certainly double the fun for Busch and his Doublemint team.
Busch is seeded third for this year’s Chase, three points behind top seed and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth. He locked up a spot in the Chase for the sixth time in his eight-year career, with his best finish of fifth coming in 2007. Busch and second-seeded Jimmie Johnson both have four wins on the season and will start the Chase just behind Kenseth, a five-time winner in 2013.
NASCAR reset the points for the 12 Chase drivers at 2,000 each following Saturday night’s race at Richmond. The top-10 drivers also received three bonus points for each win during the 26-race regular season. Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman earned wild-card berths but no bonus points for their respective victories. For the drivers starting the Chase with identical point totals after the three-point bonuses were doled out, seeding was determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.
This weekend, Busch is looking to rekindle the magic he showed at Chicagoland in 2008, when he captured a dramatic Sprint Cup win at the track just southwest of Chicago.
When a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, Busch lined up behind now five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. On the final restart, the Las Vegas native made a bold and surprising move to the outside in turns one and two, passing Johnson and holding him off to bring home his seventh win of the season at the time.
As Busch heads back to Chicagoland this weekend for the start of the 10-race Chase, he’ll not only hope to reproduce some of that Chicagoland magic of 2008, more importantly, he’ll hope to keep doing what he’s been doing all this season. If he does so over the next 10 races, Busch just might be bringing home his first Sprint Cup championship.