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Long: 3 thoughts on New Hampshire race, from Kyle Busch to Jeff Gordon and beyond

NASCAR New Hampshire Auto Racing

Driver Jeff Gordon watches as the crunched rear panel of his car is worked on practice for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H., Saturday, July 18, 2015 (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)


1 - It seems all but inevitable that Kyle Busch will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup after he scored his third victory in the last four races Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For those who have been vehemently against Busch having a shot to make the Chase after missing the first 11 races because of injury, the choice is simple - accept the fate that he’s on track to make the Chase or argue louder, understanding your case will have as much merit as spitting into the wind.

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While NASCAR waived one requirement for making the Chase, Busch had only 15 races to make the top 30 in points and score a win. Remember, he had to win with a team that had struggled on some of the bigger tracks this season. But Busch’s victory at New Hampshire gives him a victory at a 1-mile track, a road course (Sonoma) and a 1.5-mile track (Kentucky). The question isn’t as much if he’ll make the Chase but how strong a championship contender he could be.

2 - Jeff Gordon’s ninth-place finish might not seem memorable but it could be the type of day that gets him in the Chase even if he doesn’t win in the next seven races. What makes this performance stand out is how much he and his team struggled this weekend, had to fix his car after an incident in the garage with Clint Bowyer and managed to score a top-10 finish. He did that while Jamie McMurray struggled late and placed 26th. That’s important because McMurray ranks highest among non-winners in the points. Gordon is next, one point behind McMurray and 35 points ahead of the next winless driver in the standings, Kasey Kahne.

Last year, only three non-winners made the Chase. Gordon is putting himself in a position to be there if he doesn’t win before the Chase begins in September at Chicagoland Speedway. If that happens, remember this day.

3 - Sunday’s race marked the final race at a track that will host a Chase event before the Chase begins. That doesn’t mean preparations will end but with only about two months until the series returns to New Hampshire for the second Chase race, there’s not a whole lot of time for teams to make adjustments and find speed - or keep it. Sunday could be a preview of what could happen in September.

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