Thus far, 2nd place has been good to Kyle Busch

jutter@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 28, 2013 

  • Points Leaders

    1. Matt Kenseth2,111
    2. Kyle Busch-14
    3. Jimmie Johnson-18
    4. Carl Edwards-36
    5. Greg Biffle-38
    6. Kevin Harvick-39
    7. Kurt Busch-40
    8. Jeff Gordon-42
    9. Ryan Newman-47
    10. Clint Bowyer-48
    11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.-62
    12. Joey Logano-69
    13. Kasey Kahne-71

— Kyle Busch insists he would be happy to finish second in every race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

No, really.

Seriously.

Well, OK, there is a rather large caveat – on condition it led to his first championship in NASCAR’s premier series.

So far, so good.

Two races into the 10 races that will determine the 2013 Cup champion, Busch has posted a pair of runner-up finishes which leaves him just 14 points out of first place in the standings entering Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Consistency still matters in NASCAR, even in a 10-race dash to the title. So, a driver who tallied 10 second-place finishes would certainly win the championship.

There is one flaw in the plan, however. So far this season, Busch has finished second to the same driver both times – his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and fellow Chase contender, Matt Kenseth.

“If Kenseth wins every single race and we finish second every single race, we’re not going to win the championship, so you’ve certainly got to have some different winners in there,” Busch said.

Besides the mathematics involved, the thought of Busch – one of the most highly competitive drivers in NASCAR – being satisfied with running second seems on the surface implausible.

While Busch has racked up 123 wins in NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Trucks – before his 29th birthday, he has never been one who graciously accepted losing, especially if he felt he had a car capable of winning.

Could he really maintain focus on the bigger prize week after week while falling short at the checkered flag?

Busch maintains – as do those who work around him – that is definitely possible, especially the deeper Busch goes into the Chase and the closer he gets to the top spot.

The Cup championship is by all rights the biggest trophy Busch has yet to hoist in his motorsports career.

“It’s tough and you’ve got to be able to pull through in all of these races and you’ve got to have a little bit of luck go your way,” said Busch, who will start 14th in Sunday’s race. “You’ve got to have the execution of everything go your way.

“It starts with coming off the hauler and getting good practice sessions going, qualifying well, trying to always stay upfront so then you’re not in the back and racing against guys who you shouldn’t be racing against.”

Once again this weekend, however, Kenseth stands in Busch’s way.

Kenseth qualified with the second-fastest time and gets a better pick of pit stall, and has a solid track record at Dover that includes two wins and 13 top-five finishes in 29 career Cup starts.

Busch is no slouch. He also owns a pair of victories – most recently in 2010 – and eight top-five finishes in 17 career starts.

While a myriad of outcomes is possible in Sunday’s race, a familiar one remains plausible – another Kenseth-Busch one-two finish.

Should that turn out to be the case, Kenseth would become the first driver to win the first three races of the Chase since the format’s inception in 2004.

Kenseth also knows should he accomplish that goal it will be after a hard-fought battle with his teammate.

“I’ve been around Kyle quite a bit. I’ve raced against him a lot and we’ve raced Late Models together and all of that stuff and Kyle is all about racing. I mean, that’s almost 100 percent of what I think he really enjoys and focuses on,” Kenseth said.

“When he’s not racing here, he likes racing Nationwide cars or Trucks or Late Models or whatever it is. So, he’s pretty much all business, real focused, real dedicated, works real hard.”

“I could guess who’s first, second and third in points, but I really don't care right now,” Busch said. “We’re just with the mindset to continue on the path that we have all year long and that’s to continue to run consistently and to get good finishes and if we can win, we try to win.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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