Crunching numbers after Bristol

August, 24, 2010
08/24/10
5:20
PM ET

Hello there, friends. I don't know how your weekend went, but I bet it wasn't nearly as good as Kyle Busch's.

I tend to stay topical in this blog, except when I kind of mentally drift off and keep typing, ignoring the fact that this is supposed to be a blog for my hard-core NASCAR-loving audience. This week, the topic people wanted to talk about was Busch, and who can blame them?

I can't, seeing as he made some serious history this weekend, but more on that later. What I wanted to discuss is how he is the driver in NASCAR who elicits the most varied opinions. If you take an informal poll of the NASCAR audience, I bet he's in everybody's top two or three of either most-loved or most-hated.

A short list of those he's been involved in feuds with: Brad Keselowski, hard-charging NASCAR newcomer; Carl Edwards, the squeaky-clean commercial actor with six-pack abs that threaten mine; and even Kurt Busch, his older brother.

The part I love the best? He embraces both boos and cheers. Wiping away fake crybaby tears after winning the Bristol Nationwide Series race, taking a big bow. He even made a professional wrestling appearance and played the villain. The only thing he needs is some theme music.

That being said, here are the best of my postrace notes coming out of the weekend.

Worth two in the Busch

Okay, so I'm not done talking about Kyle Busch yet. He's sort of the dominant topic of the weekend, so sue me.

Note: Please don't actually sue me.

Coming into Saturday night, Kyle Busch had won the Truck and Nationwide races in the same weekend three previous times. And although he had finished no worse than 11th in the previous three attempts to pull off the triple, he hadn't quite pulled it off.

What makes it more remarkable is that he's the only driver to win the Truck and Nationwide races, then run the Cup race in the same weekend. And he has done it four times.

Just a little more on Busch. He has won nine times at Bristol in the three NASCAR national series, tying Charlotte for his most wins at any track.

Trivia break: Who is the only other driver to manage even a top-5 finish in all three series in a single weekend?

The other side

Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson might enter the Chase as the points leaders, but neither of them is going in with a ton of momentum. Johnson had crash-related issues at Bristol, and Hamlin had an engine issue and had to watch his teammate in Victory Lane.

Let me focus on Johnson, given my word limit and his status as a four-time defending series champion and all.

Over the past seven races, Johnson has shown a lot of strength, qualifying up front (3.4 average start), and has led six of the seven. But his average finish of 23.3 is not that good. He's showing the ability to run up front right now, but not to finish there.

Trivia break: Who has scored the most Sprint Cup points in the past seven races?

Down the stretch

With an off week coming up, it gives us a time to focus on the two races remaining until the Chase, and there might not be a lot of Chase-related drama there.

Every year, I point out that since they expanded the Chase field from 10 to 12, there seems to be more drama around the 10th spot than the 12th, and that looks as if it'll happen again.

Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon are in, and Kyle Busch needs only to start the final two races. The next eight drivers in the standings need to do no more than finish 28th or better over the last two races.

The 12th driver is the only question mark, but Clint Bowyer has a 100-point edge and needs only to finish seventh or better in the last two races even if 13th-place Jamie McMurray wins out.

Trivia break: What is the biggest deficit made up with two races to go to make the Chase?

Trivia break answers

1. Terry Labonte finished in the top five in all three races at Richmond in September 1995.

2. Carl Edwards is leading the series in points over the past seven races despite not having won a race all season.

3. In 2006, Kasey Kahne made up a 90-point deficit in the final two races.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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