Kurt Busch quietly takes points lead
He has one dominant win at Atlanta, but the rest of the year he has quietly rattled off six top-10 finishes in 9 races. His other finishes are 11th, 18th and 23rd.
Now, thanks to a solid Talladega run, while his main title competitors all were victimized by the “big ones”, he is your championship leader by 5 points over Jeff Gordon.
Though he is a past champion, it’s been a few years since we’ve been able to call Busch a legitimate title contender in the Cup series. The Penske team had a pretty rough time last season, and Busch was relegated to 18th in the standings.
Despite his recent struggles, Busch has some solid career statistics. He’s won at least one race every year since 2002, and has 19 career victories. He’s shown this year that he’s likely to add to that total before the season is over.
The question now is: Can he keep it up? So much has been written about the Hendrick duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and others like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. These drivers are the true title contenders, conventional wisdom says.
But someone like Kurt Busch is looking to buck that conventional wisdom. Most impressive about his return to contention is that he is driving a Dodge. Last season, not one Dodge made the Chase, now Busch is hoping to win the title in a Dodge. With the make’s parent company Chrysler literally struggling for survival right now, it’s very impressive that Busch has been able to do what he’s done so far.
In a way, this is reminiscent of 2004, when Kurt Busch took the title in the first year the Chase was implemented. That year, he wasn’t dominant, winning 3 times and earning 10 top-5 finishes. But he did well when it counted most, in the Chase, and got very lucky in the final race and was able to claim the crown by the slimmest of margins.
While the Hendrick cars are always the favorite for the title, simply because they usually end up winning it, I’m glad there’s a potential spoiler like Busch in the mix, waiting to pounce and take the title if the main contenders have troubles in the Chase.
He may not be a headline grabber, but don’t count Busch out. He’s been a champion and no doubt wants to feel that way again. And unlike last year, he has the equipment to make a legitimate run at the Cup.