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Kyle Busch seeks long-awaited Charlotte breakthrough

Kyle Busch, who starts second in tonight’s Bank of America 500, has never won at Charlotte in 23 Sprint Cup starts.

Associated Press

Kyle Busch, who starts second in tonight’s Bank of America 500, has never won at Charlotte in 23 Sprint Cup starts.

Kyle Busch has never won a Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For his sanity's sake, he hopes he can finally break through tonight.

The Bank of America 500 is the first race in the second round of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. Busch, who has four victories this season, is among 12 drivers still in contention. As is the case in each of the first three rounds, a victory assures a driver of advancing through the Chase.

That's nerve-wracking for Busch, whose best career points finish is fourth.

"Sometimes you can be pretty calm about the way the points go in the Chase," Busch said. "But sometimes it's frustrating. Your emotions can be all over the board."

That's why Busch would like to make his own history tonight at Charlotte, where he starts second tonight aside Joe Gibbs racing teammate Matt Kenseth. In 23 races at CMS, Busch has two poles and 10 top-five finishes, but hasn't won either May's Coca-Cola 600 or the fall race.

By winning tonight, he would go to the other two races in the second round, Kansas and Talladega, knowing a spot in the third round was locked up.

The second round didn't treat Busch kindly in 2014, when he went to Talladega seemingly in good shape to advance. He had five consecutive top-five finishes in the Chase to that point (but no victories) and needed only a 24th-place finish to advance to the third round.

But Busch, riding near the rear of the field early, crashed and finished 41st, ending his title hopes.

So, again, Busch doesn't want to have to rely on points to advance this year. He also doesn't want to depend on anything at Talladega, NASCAR's fastest and perhaps most unpredictable track.

"Last year we thought we played it right," Busch said. "We were the top total points scorer the first (five races), without a win. We went to Talladega and sure threw that away.

"So you would want to win at Charlotte or Kansas, either one, I don't care. Just so you know you're okay when you get to Talladega, because that's the biggest crapshoot you have."

Busch's appearance in this season's Chase is already one of the season's most unlikely stories. After breaking his leg and foot in a wreck during the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona, Busch missed the first 11 Cup races.

To make the postseason — which end Nov. 22 Homestead-Miami Speedway — Busch had to win at least once and climb into the top 30 in points, all in a span of 15 races while the rest of the field got 26, after an injury exemption from NASCAR. He took care of the victories with four, and clinched a spot in the top 30 with one race to spare.

Busch still had work to do last week at Dover to make the second round. Entering 13th in the standings, he made it inside the cut line by finishing second.

"This season has been a blessing so far," Busch said. "But it won't be if we don't make it to Homestead. It would be a dismal year if we didn't make it to Homestead."

Xfinity: Austin Dillon dodged fireworks, literally, then won the Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte. Dillon led 61 laps and held off Erik Jones to complete a season sweep at the track. Dillon's night started with a scare when fireworks from a prerace celebration landed near his back as he leaned on his No. 33 Chevrolet after introductions. Fireworks landed on his car, and he and girlfriend Whitney Ward jumped out of the way. His firesuit was slightly singed, but he was uninjured. Kyle Busch led 102 laps before hitting the wall when Kasey Kahne tapped him with 50 laps left.

Sprint Cup points

Through three of 10 races in the Chase for the Championship. Only these 12 drivers, who have had their points reset to 3,000, are eligible for the title:

Driver Pts Back

Matt Kenseth 3,000—

Denny Hamlin 3,000—

Kevin Harvick 3,000—

Carl Edwards 3,000—

Joey Logano 3,000—

Ryan Newman 3,000—

Kurt Busch 3,000—

Brad Keselowski 3,000—

Martin Truex 3,000—

Jeff Gordon 3,000—

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,000—

Kyle Busch 3,000—

Tonight

Bank of America 500, 7, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C. TV/radio: Ch. 8; 102.5-FM

Kyle Busch seeks long-awaited Charlotte breakthrough 10/09/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2015 11:16pm]
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