It will be difficult for Kyle Busch to put last Sunday behind him and look to a new day.
But that will be the plan this weekend as the Sprint Cup tour moves on to Michigan International Speedway and Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.
With only four races remaining to the Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff, Busch sits outside the boundaries of Chase qualification and probably will need a win over the next four weeks to make the playoffs.
That win seemed to be in Busch’s grasp Sunday at Watkins Glen before the Finger Lakes 355 ended in what eventual winner Marcos Ambrose called “chaos”.
Busch led 14 straight laps near the end of the race and then took the white flag as the leader. The rest of the race led him into a dark pit.
Bobby Labonte’s car spread a glaze of oil on the track, and Busch slipped in it and almost sailed off the road course. His slowing car was tapped by Brad Keselowski, who also was racing toward the front. Keselowski and Ambrose battled for the win while Busch limped home seventh.
In an instant, Busch had gone from holding a victory that would have put him in excellent Chase position to a finish that was among the biggest disappointments of his career.
He left the track in a hurry, telling reporters only that, “I have nothing good to say.”
The focus now must be on Michigan, where Busch won last season.
“You can get in the Chase without winning (a second race),” Dave Rogers, Busch’s crew chief, said. “But it certainly would be nice to have that win. We’re going to the race track the next four weeks to win the race.
“I think if you plan on going there to run top-five and beat the 24 car (Jeff Gordon), you’re fooling yourself. That’s a really strong team with a lot of veteran guys that have won championships. We’re going to bring our best cars to the race track and do our best to win the race. I’m happy with the way the team is performing. I think if we keep performing the way we’re performing, we’ll get this turned around and get another win.”
Heading to Michigan, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman hold the two wild-card spots. Kahne is the only driver in the second 10 in Cup points with two victories. Newman, Busch, Gordon, Ambrose and Joey Logano have one victory each, and anyone in that group who posts a second win this week would jump into a wild-card spot.
If no one matches Kahne’s two wins, the other wild-card spot could go to a driver with one victory and the top point total.
In addition to his win at Michigan, Busch also has victories at the other remaining pre-Chase tracks – Bristol (five), Atlanta (one) and Richmond (four).
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.