Kyle Busch has admitted that it will be tough for him to be able to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series this year, with only one race left for him to move inside the top-12 in the standing.
The 24-year-old is currently in 14th place and not only needs a good result next weekend at Richmond, but also has to count on his rivals' results to know if he has a place in the battle for the championship this season. Despite four wins – more than any other driver except for Mark Martin – Busch is in danger of being left out of the Chase this season after being one of the title contenders for the past three years.
"It's going to be tough, though, because not only do we have to beat the 83 [Brian Vickers], but we also got to beat the 17 [Matt Kenseth]," Busch says. "We need those guys to finish worse than 25th or something like that. I mean, it's going to be hard. It's definitely not going to be easy.
"All we can do is do the best we can do. If we win the race or if we finish top 10 or even 14th, we did all we could do. That's all we're going to have. It's not going to be Richmond that keeps us out; it's going to be the rest of the year that we've had our struggles that's going to be what kept us from being in the Chase."
Last weekend at Atlanta, Busch showed the speed to contend for victory in the first half of the race and seemed poised to get the result he needed to get back in the Chase. However, his speed vanished later on and a 13th-place finish was as much as he would get.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started the year as one of the favorites for the title, having dominated the regular season in 2008. He blames his lack of consistency for being in the position he is in just one race before the Chase starts.
"This season, the way it's gone, has kind of been a struggle," Busch said. "A lot of people picked us to be the champions this year because of the year we had last year. We fell off in the Chase a little bit. For some reason we just haven't been able to hit our stride. We need to get back to being able to be consistent week in and week out. Even during a race, being consistent. This past weekend at Atlanta, we were really, really good the first four runs of the race, and then we kept getting looser and looser all night.
"I kept falling back a little bit. At the end of the race we got tight. We just couldn't keep up with the racetrack the way we needed to do. It didn't work out for us."
Busch admits his current form would not be enough to fight for the championship even if he was able to make the Chase. He tips Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon as the clear favorites to run up front in the final 10 races.
"As far as being championship contenders, the only thing that we can really do is just try to run as consistent as possible," he said. "I don't foresee us being the guy that's going to finish first, second or third every single race like you can count on the 14 [Tony Stewart] or the 24 [Jeff Gordon] or the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] on doing.
"We're more of the guy that's going to be maybe third here but then we might be seventh, eighth, ninth here or 11th or 12th there. If that's good enough to win a championship, then certainly we'll be championship contenders, otherwise we'll just be chasers."
Despite his up-and-down season in the Sprint Cup Series, Busch has enjoyed a far better run in the Nationwide Series where he comfortably leads the championship. He has also claimed four wins out of ten starts in the Truck Series.