WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – With four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories since returning from an 11-race injury absence, Kyle Busch will be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as soon as he cracks the top 30 in the series standings.
That could come as early as Sunday at Watkins Glen International, if Busch makes up a 13-point deficit to 30th-place David Gilliland in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Though Busch is a prolific winner at NASCAR’s top level, he doesn’t begrudge those who qualify for the Chase with a single victory, as both Aric Almirola (Daytona) and AJ Allmendinger (Watkins Glen) did last year.
In fact, Busch fully supports the win-and-you’re-in aspect of the playoff eligibility rules.
“I think winning in this sport is very, very tough and you see it every single year,” Busch said. “I think the average is only between 12 and 14 (different) winners in a season, and that’s been that way for 15 years or 20 years or whatever it’s been. It’s not all that easy to win these races, and sometimes you look at teams – maybe last year you look at Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger. They won races to get themselves into the Chase, but were their teams really ready for the Chase?
“That’s not for any of us to decide. It’s for them to be able to compete and have that opportunity to compete for the championship… There’s opportunity for teams like that, and I think this sport needs that. If AJ were to win again this weekend, I think it would be perfect for him to have the opportunity to race in the Chase and same for anybody else like a Tony Stewart. If he were to win this weekend, I think it would be a true revival story of his season and maybe of the rest of his career.”
It’s also worth noting that, if there’s a repeat winner on Sunday at Watkins Glen, all 10 races winners this season other than Busch will be locked into the Chase. Those with multiple wins — Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth — already have earned Chase berths.