Kurt Busch has been sidelined for the last 4 weeks while recovering from concussion like symptoms. Busch crashed his No. 45 Toyota in qualifying at the end of July at the Pocono Raceway. It forced him to miss that race at Pocono a day later, Indianapolis, Michigan and now Watkins Glen and Daytona as a result.
That in turn has brought up a few questions on Busch’s playoff eligibility.
Now that we know he will missing the remainder of the regular season, let’s answer some key questions on the situation.
Is he still playoff eligible?
Yes. NASCAR has granted Busch a waiver that his win at Kansas back in May have allowed him to remain as a playoff eligible participant. All he needs to do is remain in the top 30 in points and he’s 192 points ahead of 31st in the standings with 2 races remaining.
What Happens If We Get 2 More 1st Time Winners?
Then Busch would likely be out. We have 15 different race winners in 24 races run during this year’s regular season. There’s 2 races left to set the postseason field of 16. It would take the following drivers to to combine to win Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen and next Saturday night’s at Daytona: Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon, Justin Haley, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Michael McDowell, Harrison Burton, Brad Keselowski, Todd Gilliland or Ty Dillon. Granted if 1 of them wins Watkins Glen, then a new one has to win Daytona. If that happens, then here’s where it gets tricky.
One scenario is that Corey LaJoie and Cody Ware find a way to victory lane. They would then have to be in the top 30 in points to be playoff eligible. LaJoie is 42 points behind Ty Dillon for that 30th spot. Ware is 131 back. It will be hard for them to win and get into the top 30 too so even if they win, I doubt they can use that victory to be playoff eligible too.
Another thing to watch in that is points. If we get 17 winners, the lowest driver in overall points among the race winners is the one left out. Right now, that driver is Busch. He trails Austin Cindric by 46 points. Chase Briscoe is ahead of Cindric and leads Cindric by 2 points and Busch by 48. Daniel Suarez is next up and is 71 points to the good.
The kicker is, if anyone behind Busch in points wins. They would move to the cut line so long as Busch misses any of the next 2 races and risks falling behind Haley, Buescher, Stenhouse Jr., Custer, McDowell, Burton, Keselowski, Gilliland, Ty Dillon, LaJoie and Ware in points.
What Happens If Busch Misses Darlington?
If Busch misses Darlington, the next driver up in points doesn’t get his place. Busch qualified for the playoffs, the one missing out didn’t. Just because Busch would be cleared to race in the Southern 500 doesn’t mean you take him out of the playoffs. What happens is, Busch would likely have to win either Kansas or Bristol to advance to the Round of 12.
Could he in theory make the top 12 in points after the first round despite missing a race? Sure. Is it likely? No.
But his requirement in the playoffs is the same. He could ask for a waiver and then have to win to move along through the round.
Should Busch Rush Back?
That all depends on his health. He’s not really in any danger of dropping outside of the top 30 in points. The only on track risk now is how much do you risk dropping behind more and more guys in points. That’s valuable in the sense that IF two of them should win, Busch needs to be ahead of at least one of them in points to still be playoff eligible.
However, the flip side of the coin is that maybe it’s best to let him sit the final 2 regular season races as well. Watkins Glen is a fast road course with left and right turns. Road courses are pretty physical and the blue Armco walls could bite hard. Then a week later it’s a mentally exhausting track in Daytona to where most of the field has a better chance of a crash than to seeing the checkered flag.
A crash in either after dealing with concussion like symptoms could give Busch a setback. If someone that has already won a race wins Watkins Glen, Busch then automatically is in which means do you risk him racing at Daytona?
If that’s the case, do you just roll the dice this week too? Which is why he’s skipping both.