While much of the chatter this NASCAR season has been about the “Big 3,” Kurt Busch is consistently running at the top of the next tier of drivers, currently sitting fourth in the championship standings, just behind the alluded Big 3.
Busch, 40, picked up his first victory since the 2017 Daytona 500 three weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway. The victory gave him five playoff points, and a shot in the arm the No. 41 team needed heading into the playoffs.
As the regular season comes to a close on Sunday (Sept. 9) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch has the aforementioned victory, with three additional top five finishes. The No. 41 also has 16 top 10s to its credit through the opening 25 races, more than Martin Truex Jr., who is part of the Big 3.
Despite being fourth in points, Busch is content with going into the Playoffs under the radar, though believing playoff points will play a big factor in this years postseason.
“It’s fine for where we are because they [Big 3] have so many playoff points, they deserve to be talked about,” Busch said on Friday. “The top three virtually have a race on everyone else that will be in the playoffs. I’m in that group that will be from fourth to 16th.
“There is no cushion that I have, even on the last guy that gets into the playoffs. Seven points is hardly anything. That can be one loose lug nut, one little flub in the pits, one bad restart. Seven points doesn’t cover much of anything, so it’s OK for us to be unnoticed or not part of the Big 3.”
Although the No. 41 team may be under the radar, it doesn’t change the way the 2004 series champion races.
“The strength that we have is consistency, speed and the power to be fourth and fifth overall in points,” he said. “That’s what we have as our strength going into the playoffs.”
Busch is coming off a season where he was knocked out of the playoffs following the first round. Unlike this year, the No. 41 entered the playoffs with just the five playoff points from winning the Daytona 500.
This season, Busch has the victory and two stage wins, currently sitting eighth on the playoff grid. But with a 17-point advantage on Joey Logano heading into Indianapolis, it’s likely the No. 41 team will finish the regular season fourth in points, picking up an additional seven playoff points. Busch would be in a three-way tie for fourth should the Playoffs start now.
“Seven points is hardly anything when you talk about how Truex, my little brother [Kyle Busch] and [Kevin] Harvick have 30+ bonus points,” Busch said. “I’m racing at Chicago for that one stage win and I would have eight playoff points going into the playoffs where he would have 31. It’s a bigger impact for the teams in our grouping to get those points than it is for those three.”
As the Cup Series heads into the Brickyard, Busch has a best finish of fifth in 2001, which was his first career started at the famed racetrack.