By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas — With one race left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Round of 8 is cut down to four, Kurt Busch finds himself in a not-so-favorable spot — last in the Chase Grid.
After finishing 15th-or-better in every Chase event through the Rounds of 16 and 12, Busch has now racked up back to back finishes of 20th-or-worse to start the Round of 8. After his latest finish, a 20th place effort in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch now sits 34 points behind the final transfer spot.
Busch started the event from the 10th-position, but he was never really a factor for a win or a good finish. His car was ill-handling all night long, but he was able to stay on the lead lap for the majority of the race.
After a pit stop on lap 187, Busch finally radioed that his crew chief Tony Gibson was finally heading in the right direction with his adjustments. However Busch’s tight condition, paired with being loose off the turn, really bogged him down compared to the leaders.
On lap 244, Busch went a lap down to the leaders.
Busch would keep on digging, and when the caution came out on lap 265, he received the free pass. It looked like Busch would have a shot at a rally, but under this caution he pitted twice — which isn’t against the rules for a free pass car — but his team did fill up the fuel tank twice under the caution — which is a no-no for a free pass car.
As a result, Busch was held on pit road for a lap and he would struggle to a 20th-place finish. Following possibly his worst race of the season, Busch explained that his team just missed the mark on the setup.
“We just missed the set-up,” said Busch. “It’s a Chase race, it’s kind of important and we missed it again.”
If Busch is going to leave Phoenix next weekend with a spot in the Sprint Cup Championship race in Homestead, he will undoubtedly have to win next weekend’s race.
Phoenix is actually one of Busch’s best tracks — as far as career average finish is concerned — and he does have a win at Phoenix, which came in 2005. That win came of course under the previous track layout, but under the new configuration Busch has finished inside the top-10 in five of the last six races at PIR.