Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OUT OF THE CLOUDS; Busch's Bid for Chase No Longer Hazy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OUT OF THE CLOUDS; Busch's Bid for Chase No Longer Hazy

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Following his dominant victory Tuesday in the 3M Performance 400, Kurt Busch was one of the few who didn't seem to mind the two days of delays at the Michigan International Speedway.

After sitting through two days of showers that put the Nextel Cup Series into crisis mode, Busch offered some perspective, saying that a little rain was no big deal compared to other problems around the world.

"I've got to thank the fans who stuck it out until Tuesday to see a green-white-checkered finish," Busch said after fending off the challenges of two restarts in the final 10 laps. "We put it on for them at the end. It was a tough-fought win for this race team. We're real proud to bring it home. We have to thank the fans and the military that protect us overseas. To live in a free country, have a couple rain days and go out and play on Tuesday feels good."

A month ago, Busch was in danger of not qualifying for the Chase for the Nextel Cup, stock-car racing's playoffs. Now, he has the kind of momentum to not only make the cut but contend for his second championship.

"Today was a resounding success, based on execution," car owner Roger Penske said. "He is right at the top of his game. We've still got to get into the Chase, but if he's in, he's got to be the car to beat."

Busch holds the 12th and final qualifying spot for the playoffs going into Saturday night's race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. With three races before the Chase, he has a 163-point cushion on 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Bristol is a track where Busch has five career victories.

"We've hit fourth gear," Busch said.

Busch, who was a far back as 17th in June, started his charge six races ago at Daytona International Speedway. He's finished no worse than 11th since then. In that stretch, he has a pair of victories.

"To get the race under way was a relief," Busch said. "We made one big adjustment at the end of happy hour (final practice on Saturday), and three days later, we got to put it to use. When you're running for the Chase, just to get in, you've got to be smooth. I've got to be on the top of my game."

No matter what happens at Bristol, Busch's lead is big enough to keep him among the top 12. With that kind of margin, the team said it will bring the same game plan that's worked in the past six races.

"Our plan all along was to get 20 points on everybody all around us every week," crew chief Pat Tryson said. "You can lose 90 points in one week if you break a motor or get in a wreck."

It was the first Nextel Cup Series race on a Tuesday since July 4, 1978. And while the rain finally pushed out, fog created an additional one-hour delay. While the sport lost two days, teams left Michigan on schedule.

Busch, who won $190,108, didn't seem to mind the wait. …

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