- Scott Powers, Reporter
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CHICAGO -- Kyle Busch said Friday he’s optimistic he can bounce back from his recent struggles and finish the regular season strong enough to secure himself a spot in the Chase.
Busch has had one top-10 finish in the last seven weeks and has fallen to No. 13 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings. He is in second place in the wildcard standings with one victory and would fill the final Chase position if the season were to end today.
Busch will race for his own team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, in the Nationwide Series at the Chicagoland Speedway this weekend and will return to the Sprint Cup Series and the Joe Gibbs Racing team next week to compete in the Brickyard 400.
“I’m not sure at all [I’ll qualify for the Chase,]” said Busch in Chicago on Friday. “All we can do is work as hard as we know how to do and get ourselves capable of finishing up front and winning a couple races before its starts.
“If you win one, you think you’re going to be okay. If you win two, you’re locked in. For us, we’ve got good tracks coming up. I think of the seven race tracks, we’ve won at six of them. It bodes well for us.”
Busch has actually won at five of the remaining seven Sprint Cup tracks. He has won four times at Richmond International Raceway, once at Atlanta Motor Speedway, five times at Bristol Motor Speedway, once at Michigan International Speedway and once at Watkins Glen International. He has not won at Pocono Raceway or Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch was among the hottest drivers heading into June with seven top-10 finishes and a victory under his belt. Since then, he’s had finishes of 29th, 30th, 32nd, 17th, 10th, 24th and 16th place.
“We’re not comfortable at all,” Busch said of where he stood in the standings. “This Chase format is certainly stressful if you’re back in the points as we are.
“We had a slow start to the year and then we got going. We won at Richmond and then we had five top 5s in a row and were up to eighth in points and just about ready to make a pounce for fifth in points and then bad luck struck, and we haven’t been able to shake it yet.”
If Busch can qualify for the Chase, he believes he’ll be more energized for it than in years past after he deciding to cut down on his race schedule this year.
“Definitely not as fatigued this year, that’s probably the main point,” Busch said. “I say some weekends I’m a little bored not having as much running around doing back and forth between the garage areas.
“I do miss it. I would love to be out there on the racetrack running and getting as much knowledge for the weekend and what have you. If we make the Chase, it’ll certainly feel a little bit different just being more relaxed and not being so wore out come Chase time.”
One other incentive for Busch to quality for the Chase is a fan event called NASCAR Contenders Live, which Busch helped unveil in Chicago on Friday. Fans can win a chance to interact with all 12 Chase contenders at the House of Blues in Chicago on Sept. 12 prior to the Chase’s first race, the Geico 400 on Sept. 14. Fans can find more info at nascar.com/contenderslive.
Busch expected the Contenders Live session to stir up the pot between all 12 drivers.
“There will be some trash-talking,” Busch said. “There is always when you get all 12 of us together, especially some of the characters in the top 12. They’re good at that stuff.”