Kurt Busch Kansas Redux

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the site of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, ranked fifth in the Contender Round of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It’s a relatively comfortable spot to be in, but Busch knows he’ll need another performance like he had at Kansas in the spring to help solidify his position in what he feels is one of the most challenging rounds of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Race winners from each round of the Chase automatically advance to the next round, with the remaining advancing teams determined by total points accumulated. Should Busch be able to duplicate his May performance at Kansas – he started and finished eighth – it would give him a little more of a cushion in the standings. He enters the second race of the three-race Contender Round ranked fifth on the Chase grid and has a 10-point cushion over ninth-place Ryan Newman, the first driver currently ranked below the cutoff line.

This weekend, Busch hopes to add his name alongside Joey Logano, winner of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, to the list of winners who automatically advance to the next round of the Chase. Busch cannot be overlooked as a contender. After all, he has shown consistent speed on the intermediate tracks this season and, last month, he scored a career-best third-place finish at Kansas Speedway’s sister racetrack, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.

Although he has yet to find his way victory lane at Kansas, he has been able to compete at the track with a consistency that has resulted in only eight finishes that have been outside the top-15. Additionally, he has been running at the end of all but two of the races in which he’s competed at Kansas. In 19 starts, Busch has earned one pole, one top-five finish and five top-10s. While the 1.5-mile oval hasn’t been one of his best tracks, he did collect his career-best finish – a second-place effort – in this event two years ago.

While a breakthrough victory at Kansas would add to the list of mile-and-a-half successes the Las Vegas native has experienced in his career, it would do much more than that for his 2015 championship hopes. A win this weekend would guarantee him a spot in the third round of the Chase no matter what happens in next week’s daunting elimination race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.