Kyle Busch leads Joe Gibbs Racing’s effort into Phoenix
FORT WORTH, Texas - Kyle Busch wanted to see one of two things happen Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
He wanted a driver who wasn’t contending with him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup or someone he ran with all day in the AAA Texas 500 to wind up firing six-shooters in victory lane.
Busch saw the former scenario materialize when Jimmie Johnson passed Brad Keselowski with four laps left. Six miles later, Busch couldn’t deny that Johnson’s victory helped him in the deepest playoff run of his Sprint Cup career. Johnson’s win meant that a title-contending driver didn’t advance to the championship round, leaving Jeff Gordon as the only driver guaranteed a spot at this time.
“It makes those guys that are in dire need of a win (to advance) have to work hard for it,” said Busch after finishing fourth. “Sometimes you can’t push yourself in that situation.”
Busch is second on the Chase grid, four points ahead of Martin Truex Jr. in the cutoff spot heading to Phoenix International Raceway for the final race before the championship round.
Busch, who has yet to win a Chase race as a Chase contender, knows his strategy next Sunday as the highest of the two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers left in the Chase.
“If we’re running fifth or 10th, that’s what we need to do,” Busch said.
The other JGR driver still eligible for the title is Carl Edwards, who finished fifth and is the first driver currently out of the final four, seven points behind Truex.
“My guys never cheered so hard for Jimmie,” Edwards said. “Middle of the race, two-thirds of the way (through) the race I thought we might have something for Brad, but we faded at the end.”
Edwards ran as high as second on Lap 200 before ending with his seventh top five of the season.
In the first two round-ending races, Busch finished second at Dover and 11th at Talladega Superspeedway. Edwards finished 15th and fifth.
But Busch knows Phoenix is a different challenge compared to those tracks. Busch and Edwards have combined for three wins, Edwards has two.
There is a perfect scenario for each. Winning the pole and the race, something Busch has done five times in his career, and Edwards twice, the second at Phoenix in 2010.
But Busch - who missed 11 races recovering from leg injuries suffered at the beginning of the season - believes there’s two Cinderella scripts that have been written for this Chase.
“It’s just which one’s going to come true,” Busch said. “Jeff Gordon certainly has one. I feel like we have one.”