If Joey Logano, the points leader as the Chase for the Sprint Cup moves into the final race of the Contender Round at Talladega, happens to hear someone breathing down his neck, well, it’s Kyle Busch.
Logano, who drives for Team Penske, has been sensational in the Chase. He’s won twice and finished fourth three times in the five races held so far. His latest victory, at Kansas, moved him comfortably into the Eliminator Round.
But as good as Logano has been, Busch, who races for Joe Gibbs Racing, is nearly his equal.
Busch is second in points and he is only six behind Logano – a difference that can easily be made up in a single race.
In the Chase, Busch has not finished out of the top 10. His lowest finish has been 10th at Dover but in the last two weeks he’s taken third at Kansas and fifth at Charlotte.
Busch was ranked eighth in points with one victory when the Chase began. He’s gained six spots in five races.
Obviously, Busch likes the way things are going.
“It certainly feels good that we’re heading in the right direction at the right time of the year,” he said. “It’s all about peaking at the right time. Hopefully we haven’t peaked yet, and we still have a way to climb. I feel like we do, anyways.
“We haven’t won in the Chase. There’s opportunity there.
“Again, it’s just trying to get ourselves smarter each and every week about making the right decisions and unloading with the right setups in these cars.
Busch suggested that although he and his team are running well, they would have to be as good – or better – than several others if they hope to ultimately challenge for a championship.
“We certainly have been fighting really hard at Joe Gibbs Racing to get ourselves up to running with the level of competition that we’ve been seeing from our competitors,” Busch said. “Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have really been the cars to beat this year.
“Looking at those four, you automatically punch those four all the way through to the end and those are the guys who are going to be racing for the championship.”
Right now, one would think that Busch might just be racing for the championship also. He and his team have displayed the caliber of performance it takes.
Busch, however, thinks more can be done.
“All the pieces are coming together and they’re all coming together at the right time, as I said,” Busch said. “You can do great things.
“For us, hopefully, there’s still a continuation of that here in the next five weeks. We’ll have to have it.”
The next race of the Contender Round is at Talladega, unquestionably the most challenging track in NASCAR. High speeds in the draft and very close-quarters racing – lap after lap – create a situation where a single mistake can create a massive accident.
And who knows who will be involved?
“Being a winner at Talladega doesn’t matter at all,” Busch said. “It’s such a crapshoot that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.
“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble.
“If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race.
“Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”