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Long: Three thoughts on Sunday’s rain-shortened Michigan race

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400

NASCAR via Getty Images

1 - The debate on if a driver who misses 11 races deserves to have a chance to be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup might become moot after Kyle Busch finished last - his second finish of 36th or worse since returning to the car last month. Busch said on the radio after the incident that he crashed when he hit rain in Turn 4.

Call it bad luck that Busch was the one who crashed in that situation but it leaves him way behind in his bid to earn a Chase bid. He must win one of the remaining 11 races before the Chase field is determined and be in the top 30 in points by then. Justin Allgaier is 30th in points and on pace to score 435 points by the time the Chase field is set. Busch needs a win (at least 47 points) and then would need to average about a 13th-place finish in the other 10 races to match Allgaier’s projected total. Busch’s chances are dropping.

2 - More important than Kurt Busch winning is who didn’t win. Busch already had a win, so his victory keeps someone else from all but claiming a Chase spot. Kyle Larson tried to steal a win and a Chase spot but rain came a few laps too late for him. There have been 10 different winners in the first 15 races of the season. Last year, three drivers made the 16-team Chase via points. The top three winless drivers in points as of now are Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Those drivers are fine with repeat winners if they can’t win.

3 - When they did get to race, it was clear how valuable clean air was and how important the news is that NASCAR is looking at a different aero package at Kentucky Speedway next month. It remains unclear if the rule change - lower downforce - would be only for that track or any other tracks this season, but it’s a step in the right direction for a sport that’s been missing something that has the fan base buzzing for days that good side-by-side racing can create.

After looking to introduce the 2016 rules package at last month’s Sprint All-Star race, backing off after owners raised questions about the cost and then re-examining rule changes after drivers became more outspoken about a need for change, NASCAR is making the right decision to examine this issue again. The challenge becomes at what cost for the owners. This is where NASCAR and teams must find a way to address the costs because the most important thing is what will make the racing better and appease fans.

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