The start of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season was pretty terrible for the Busch brothers. Kurt was suspended due to allegations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic abuse, and Kyle suffered a terrible leg injury the day before the Daytona 500. The former missed the first three races of the season before NASCAR let him back in the #41 Chevrolet; the latter had a relatively quick recovery and only missed eleven races.
NASCAR Has Mishandled Both Situations
Back in March, I wrote an article on how NASCAR handled Kurt Busch. Long story short, they did everything they could to keep him out of victory lane at Fontana. Luckily for Kurt, he found victory lane a month later at Richmond. He grabbed a second win at Michigan a few weeks ago as well. Unless something crazy happens, he’s solidly in this year’s Chase (and rightfully so–we’ll get to that later).
Now let’s talk about Kyle Busch’s chances to get in to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs–the Chase.
The official rules of NASCAR state that in order for a driver to be guaranteed a Chase berth, he or she must win a race, be inside the top 30 in the points standings, and start all 26 races prior to the beginning of NASCAR’s playoffs. Considering he missed the first 11 events of 2015, it would be impossible for Kyle Busch to satisfy all of those requirements. So, NASCAR granted him a waiver; to make the Chase in 2015, Kyle needed to win a race and be inside the top 30 in the points standings by the end of race #26.
Well, after his victory at Sonoma last weekend, he’s satisfied one of those two necessities. And heading into Sunday night’s race at Daytona, Busch is 146 points behind Cole Whitt, who currently ranks 30th. This weekend’s Coke Zero 400 is the 17th race of the season, so that means Kyle has ten races left to make up the 146 points, which actually isn’t really that out of reach.
This season, Whitt is averaging a finish of 27.8. To catch up, Kyle Busch will have to average a result of 12th or so over the next ten races, although that number could change. Basically, if everything remains the same, Kyle will have to finish 146 positions ahead of Whitt over the next ten races. It’s not out of this world to think that will happen.
What does that say about NASCAR’s competitive depth, though?
I have no problem with NASCAR granting Kyle Busch the exception to the rule in regards to making the Chase. He didn’t miss those initial eleven races because of a drug problem, or because of a suspension or something. “Rowdy” missed them because of an unfortunate accident, and one that could have been avoided if Daytona International Speedway wasn’t so cheap and put SAFER barriers everywhere on the track.
My problem with this is how relatively easy it’s going to be for Kyle Busch to make the Chase. Now that he has his victory in the “regular season,” Busch only has to outrun a guy like Cole Whitt by a 15-place margin. It shouldn’t be that easy.
Just think about it: the Sprint Cup Series is made up of the best stock car drivers in the world, and you’re telling me that, over a 26-race period, a guy can run eleven less races than another yet still score more points? Percentage-wise, Kyle Busch will have missed 42 percent of the first 26 races, yet he’s still probably going to score more points than Cole Whitt.
Hey, NASCAR. That’s embarrassing.
Kyle Busch is one of my favorite drivers in the series, and even I will admit that this is embarrassing. It isn’t a statement of how talented “Rowdy” is, it’s a statement of just how pathetic the depth of competitiveness has become in NASCAR’s top series. And, sadly, it will be a black eye for the sport if he makes the Chase this year. NASCAR will do their best to twist the situation into a positive, heart-felt story, but real fans will see right through that.
Now, to note, I don’t have an answer for it. This is a very expensive sport, and I think that’s a major reason why this problem is happening. I say that because there isn’t a lack of talent in NASCAR. There’s a bunch of drivers waiting in the Xfinity Series to make the move to the Cup series, but there simply isn’t room–and there’s not enough seats open in competitive rides.
What do you think about all this? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.