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Busch down but certainly not out in Chase

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Kyle Busch entered Sunday's Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway atop the point standings, but after a disappointing 34th-place finish in the first of the 10-race "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship, the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver has fallen to eighth in the standings. He is now 74 points behind new leaders Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, who both finished in the top-five. It's the lowest Busch has been ranked all season.

Busch ran into all sorts of problems during the 300-lap event, including a broken sway bar on the car, a penalty for entering pit road too early and a crash that put him behind the wall for 12 laps.

Greg Biffle surprisingly won at New Hampshire. Biffle grabbed the lead from Johnson with 11 laps to go and then held off two-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson at the finish to snap a 33-race winless streak. As a result, Biffle moved from ninth to third in the standings, 30 points behind the leaders.

There's plenty of time for Kyle Busch to crawl out of the hole he is in.
With a series-high eight victories, Busch ended the "regular season" last week at Richmond with a 207-point lead. But after the points were re-adjusted for the "Chase," his advantage over Edwards was just 30 markers. Busch has finished worse than 34th in three other races this season -- 36th and 43rd at Pocono and 38th in the spring event at Martinsville.

After New Hampshire, Busch has dug himself a hole, but with nine races remaining in the season, there's plenty of time for him to crawl out of it.

Johnson was in a similar situation two years ago.

Trailing five points behind leader Matt Kenseth, Johnson started the 2006 "Chase" in the second seed, but after a 39th-place finish at New Hampshire, he fell to ninth, 139 markers behind new leader Kevin Harvick. He finished 13th, 14th, and 24th in the next three races and was 156 points behind Jeff Burton. Johnson, however, rebounded in the next five races as he finished either first or second in each of them. He held a 63-point lead heading into the season- finale at Homestead, and then clinched the title by 56 points with a ninth- place finish there.

Johnson almost captured the 2004 inaugural "Chase" championship after overcoming an enormous points deficit. He trailed Kurt Busch by 247 points after the fourth race in Kansas, but went on to win four of the final six races, ending the season just eight point behind the elder Busch for the championship, making it the closest points battle in series history.

Busch has qualified for the "Chase" the past three seasons. Last year, he finished fifth in his final season driving the No.5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Busch started the 2006 "Chase" with a 38th-place finish at New Hampshire and fell six positions. He never recovered and ended the year 10th in the standings.

In his first year with JGR, Busch is by far enjoying his most successful season and should be able to able to rebound in time for the season-ending race on November 16th, as long as he doesn't have another devastating performance this year. The series runs next at Dover, where Busch won in June.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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