HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Navigating through negative comments from detractors on social media is often a tough road. For Samantha Busch , criticism has been a much more personal topic of late, one that brings emotional timbres to her voice. Her husband, Kyle Busch , hoisted the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship trophy for the first time Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway , capping a stirring comeback season that opened with multiple severe leg injuries in a harrowing crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway . Busch missed the first 11 races of the year as he recovered, returning to competition in mid-May with an exemption from NASCAR officials that kept him eligible for the title. When that eligibility eventually resulted in his first premier-series championship, online naysayers renewed their scrutiny of a decision and a playoff format that kept Busch's dreams intact. For Samantha Busch , that criticism hit home. "The waiver is very emotional," she said Monday night, moments after accepting accolades for her husband's championship-winning team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' season-ending awards banquet. "First of all, it wasn't just there for Kyle. It's been used for other drivers. It's been used for Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch and I believe Kyle Larson , so it's not like something that was just invented for Kyle and this injury. So that's the first thing that gets me a little emotional. "But secondly, I think people just think, 'Oh, he got to take 11 weeks off and so he's more refreshed than other drivers.' Absolutely wrong. He was sitting there trying to learn how to bend his toes, how to move his foot, how to stand up out of bed. It was not a walk in the park for him, it was not a vacation, and it was probably the hardest thing he's ever done in his life, and not only did he do it with such determination and passion, but he came back so much earlier than anyone expected." Samantha Busch recounted the more difficult moments of her husband's rehabilitation -- the falls, the doubts, and the struggle of merely learning to walk again. "People don't see what we went through," Busch said. "They don't know every hour. They don't understand how hard he works and I think that's why I get a little bit more emotional about it."
RELATED: Series standings " Chase Grid " Clinching scenarios for Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Shared setups, shared strategies and ultimately shared goals. There are benefits to teamwork, especially when your name is Kurt Busch , your teammate is Kevin Harvick , and the venue is Phoenix International Raceway , a track where Harvick holds a four-race lock on Victory Lane. But how far do the graces of teamwork extend, especially when every position on the track is critical in the next-to-last race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs? The Stewart-Haas Racing teammates aim to find out, and a dream sequence for placing both of the organization's cars into the title-eligible final four has already captured Busch's fancy. "For Kevin, he has his agenda and for us, we have our agenda," Busch said Friday before opening Sprint Cup practice at the 1-mile oval. "The perfect day for Stewart-Haas Racing would be for the 41 car to win and for Kevin Harvick to finish second. That would allow both of us to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead. We hope we are in that position." Three teams have the opportunity for the "perfect day" scenario of a two-pronged championship effort after Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix, (which is being renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the day, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) -- the SHR duo of Harvick and Busch , the Team Penske twosome of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski , and the remaining Joe Gibbs Racing contingent of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards . With Jeff Gordon -- Hendrick Motorsports ' lone remaining title hopeful -- already reserving a berth among the championship four, only one team (if any) will be able to move both its drivers forward, with only so much water that can fit into the funnel as the title field thins from eight to four. While overarching team goals play a factor, Harvick said Friday that his focus was singular for now. "I haven't really thought about any of that stuff to be honest with you," Harvick said, dismissing the various clinching scenarios. "The only thing I've thought about this week was winning this race." No driver has as much winning history to lean on within his team's framework as Busch . Harvick's run of four straight victories is part of a portfolio of seven career wins at the flat track in the Arizona desert. RELATED: Can anyone break Harvick's hold on Phoenix? Busch lauded Harvick's "keen sense" of navigating Phoenix's oblong layout and his ability to find advantages in running certain lines through the slightly banked corners. But some of the success can be chalked up to handling characteristics, which Busch's No. 41 outfit hopes to mimic by running a similar setup to Harvick's No. 4. "There are always little numbers that get lost in translation, but for us we have been very good at sharing information and having things equal across the board," Busch said. "I'm looking forward to the race this weekend and trying to go against a teammate that is the fastest car at this track for a shot at the championship. There couldn't be a better feeling." Busch was nearly the caboose of a 1-2 SHR day here in March before a late-race pit call left him to settle for a fifth-place result. Returning to Phoenix this weekend with the stakes much higher, Busch knows a top-five finish likely won't be enough to punch his ticket for the championship Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Busch's seventh-place effort last weekend at Texas helped soothe some of the damage from a crash-related 34th at Martinsville. But facing a 28-point deficit below the Chase cut line makes winning even more crucial in the second year of the postseason's elimination format. Leaning on Harvick may help Busch's cause, but it may also have to come at the expense of his teammate's Phoenix dominance. "In years past before this format, consistency was still key," Busch said. "Consistency is key now, but the problem is that you have to get top fives. You have to win. I mean Brad Keselowski did everything right last week except win. That is what we have to do this week, we have to win. A top-five isn't going to be good enough. Where a lot of people think we did good last week by finishing seventh, and I was like 'thank you, but what did it do for us?' Absolutely nothing. And so you have to go and win. That is what this format demands you do this time of year."
RELATED: Johnson tops Friday's practice Practice 3 " Full results Kurt Busch proved Kevin Harvick wasn't the only Stewart-Haas Racing car favored for the win Sunday, as he swept both Sprint Cup Series practices on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway . Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet zipped around the Arizona track at 140.029 mph to nab the fastest spot in the final session. Polesitter Jimmie Johnson made a late run to briefly top the leaderboard in Saturday's final practice session at Phoenix International Raceway . His No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet's fast lap of 139.389 mph ultimately earned the second spot. Dale Earnhardt Jr . posted the third-fastest speed, his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet flying around the 1-mile oval at 139.130 mph. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' Kyle Larson nabbed the fourth spot with a fast lap of 138.910 from his No. 42 Chevrolet. Reigning series champion Kevin Harvick , who has won four straight races at Phoenix, rounded the 1-mile oval at 138.905 mph to pick up the fifth-fastest speed. Erik Jones , who is filling in for Joe Gibbs Racing 's Matt Kenseth this weekend, showed plenty of speed in the No. 20, as he posted a speed of 138.905 mph to pick up the sixth spot. Jeff Gordon was the slowest of the eight remaining Chase drivers in the final session, maneuvering his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 137.905 mph to rank 20th-fastest. With his win at Martinsville two weeks ago, Gordon is the only driver locked into the championship round at Homestead. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Practice 2 " Full results Kurt Busch opened the day on a strong note, topping the first of two Sprint Cup Series practice sessions on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway . Busch , who qualified second for Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM), paced the morning run through with a best speed of 139.627 mph. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver's fellow Chase for the Sprint Cup competitor, Carl Edwards , was second on the charts at 139.260 mph. Kyle Larson (139.152 mph), Kevin Harvick (139.147 mph) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (139.028 mph) rounded out the top five. Friday's practice leader and Coors Light Pole Award winner, Jimmie Johnson , was sixth at 138.878 mph. The rest of the Chase field placed as follows: Martin Truex Jr . (8th, 138.680 mph); Joey Logano (9th, 138.680 mph); Kyle Busch (13th, 138.265 mph); Brad Keselowski (14th, 138.233 mph) and Jeff Gordon (18th, 138.021 mph). Sprint Cup cars are back on track for final practice at 2:30 p.m. ET with coverage on NBCSN/Live Extra.
Kurt Busch was penalized on the initial start at Phoenix International Raceway and could not overcome before rain shortened the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, leaving Busch outside the Championship 4.
RELATED: Full race results " Race recap SHOP: Champion gear In a season fit for the silver screen, Kyle Busch completed his emotional comeback from a devastating season-opening injury to capture his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Busch took home the 2015 championship by being the top finisher among the Championship 4 drivers, which also included Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr ., in the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch led 41 laps on the day and the last seven of the 267-lap event for his first career postseason win as a member of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. "Rowdy" spent much of the race running in the top two and took the lead from Brad Keselowski for good shortly after the Lap 261 restart. Busch then distanced himself from Harvick, the series' 2014 champion, who finished as the runner-up in the race and final standings. Gordon finished sixth in his final race, while Truex finished 12th. "This is just so unbelievable, so amazing and means so much right here, right now and probably will for a long, long time to come," Busch said on the championship stage at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "The opportunity that the amount of people that have poured their life and soul into everything that Kyle Busch does and is about -- from M&M's to Toyota to Snickers and Twix and Skittles, Joe Gibbs (team owner) and his family and all of Joe Gibbs Racing , everyone that gave me such a fast race car here tonight to drive. It was so much fun. "This is just a dream come true and my family, my wife, my son -- to have him this year and to have everything we've gone through this year to be in this moment -- I don't know what else to say, but this is so special." The title makes the Busch brothers -- Kurt won the 2004 championship -- the second pair of brothers in NASCAR to win premier series championships. The Labonte brothers also have accomplished that with Terry winning titles in 1984 and 1996 and Bobby winning in 2000. RELATED: See all the premier series champions The 2015 season started off in a frightening fashion for Busch . A crash in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway left him with a broken right leg and a broken left foot. Busch missed the first 11 points races of the season before returning in the middle of May for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Matt Crafton , David Ragan and Erik Jones each took turns behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing . NASCAR granted Busch a waiver to make the Chase provided he was able to win a race and crack the top 30 in points before the end of the 26-race regular season at Richmond International Raceway . It took Busch just over a month to find Victory Lane and he did so at Sonoma Raceway, holding off his brother. That sparked a stretch of four wins in five races for the 30-year-old, including three straight wins at Kentucky Speedway , New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway . He nearly pulled off a fourth straight win at Pocono Raceway but ran out of gas on the final lap. RELATED: See all the 2015 winners For the second half of the waiver requirement, Busch cracked the top 30 in points after the race at Watkins Glen International in August and secured his spot in the Chase after the Darlington race, which was the second-to-last race of the regular season. The Chase provided an early test for Busch as a wreck at New Hampshire and a 37th-place finish left him on the outside looking in of advancing to the Contender Round heading to Dover International Speedway . However, he was able to rally to advance with a runner-up finish at the "Monster Mile." Contact with Kyle Larson near the entrance of pit road at Charlotte in the Contender Round opener derailed a promising day for Busch and left him needing strong performances at Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway to make the Eliminator Round. Busch delivered at both, gaining the spots he needed late at Talladega, which was where he was involved in a wreck the previous year that took him out of the Chase. Busch was a model of consistency in the Eliminator Round with three top-five finishes to advance on points to the Championship 4. The title season was also a big one off the track for Busch as he and wife Samantha welcomed son Brexton in May, just days after Busch's return to competition. During Championship 4 Media Day, Busch and Joe Gibbs revealed that Busch had inked a contract extension days after the news of Mars extension as sponsor on the No. 18 Toyota was announced. The Sprint Cup championship is the first for crew chief Adam Stevens, who was in his first year as a pit boss in the Sprint Cup Series, and the fourth (and first since 2005) for Gibbs. It was also the first Sprint Cup championship for manufacturer Toyota. "We are extremely proud of Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing on winning the Sprint Cup Series driver's championship," said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. "It's an incredible accomplishment for Kyle, to overcome the adversity he faced this year and come back with the focus and determination he has had to win races, qualify for the Chase and then earn the ultimate prize, his first Sprint Cup Series championship. "Winning this NASCAR championship has been a huge aspiration for Toyota since joining NASCAR in 2004. We are honored to finally be on this stage and join Kyle and Joe Gibbs for our first Sprint Cup Series title." Championship weekend was a banner one for the 30-year-old Busch . In addition to his Sprint Cup championship, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Erik Jones won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship on Friday night and KBM won the owner's championship in that series.
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that Kurt Busch will return to its No. 41 Chevrolet for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and has signed a multi-year contract with the team. The re-signing of a new contract includes news of a unique multi-year agreement with Monster Energy. The energy drink manufacturer will serve as a co-primary sponsor with Haas Automation. Monster Energy will have one full primary race sponsorship as well as being the alpha sponsor (hood) for 17 races and bravo sponsor (quarter panel) for 18 races. The new sponsorship will debut next weekend at Martinsville Speedway , where Monster Energy will be the primary sponsor on the No 41 Chevrolet for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (Nov. 1, 1:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). "Very excited to partner up again with Stewart-Haas Racing and to announce a contract extension and to be able to have Monster Energy come onboard," Kurt Busch said on Wednesday at the SHR headquarters. "It creates this element of championship form right from the get-go with two brands such as that and for me to have the opportunity to drive, I feel very blessed and privileged to have this opportunity." SHR co-owner and three-time champion Tony Stewart indicated that this sponsorship deal was largely Kurt Busch 's doing. "This was something that really was Kurt's project, Kurt's relationship and this was something that he worked really hard at getting over here," Stewart said. "I'd love to take the credit for it but this was something that Kurt not only as a driver, he really promoted this side. He's the one that really made this happen." As for the racing side of things, Stewart is glad to have the 2004 champion back in fold. "It seems like when it comes to the race weekends, our setups are probably the closest alike," Stewart said. "So I really lean on Kurt for information and we've been able to communicate so well as far as the feel of the car. He's somebody that I really, really like and believe in as a driver. He's the guy you can take anywhere, any track at any time and he can win a race." Kurt Busch was quick to point out the uniqueness of the co-primary sponsorship. "When you have this situation that we've been able to produce at Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas' blessing, with Tony Stewart 's guidance and all of the marketing team, it makes sense to have two primaries such as this," Busch said. "To be able to enjoy the spotlight, leading laps, sitting on poles and going to Victory Lane. To me, it ties the two brands together with this synergy that is very powerful." Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing for Monster Energy, said that the sharing of the car is what attracted Monster Energy to sign up for this deal with Kurt Busch . "That's a real exciting part for us," Covington said. "Haas Automation was willing to share the season and share the car. We are pretty much partners in the team for the whole season. ... "We didn't want to come in and just do four or five races and then have some other sponsor run that clashes with our brand or doesn’t fit with our brand for some of the other races. This way we know who is going to be on the car every week. It's our partners and it's almost like having a full Cup season." Kurt Busch , 37, joined the Stewart-Haas organization in 2014. He has scored three victories for SHR and has qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs in each of his two seasons in the No. 41 ride. The energy drink has also backed the efforts of brother Kyle Busch in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Monster had been an associate sponsor for Kurt Busch 's in the Sprint Cup Series, and has been the primary sponsor of both brothers in the XFINITY tour since 2012. Monster Energy has served as the primary sponsor for the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series this season. Covington indicated that "anything is possible" regarding the company's relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing . Kurt Busch was the lone remaining variable among the four drivers currently on the organization's roster, following Danica Patrick in re-upping with team co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas. At the Aug. 18 announcement for Patrick and new sponsor Nature's Bakery, Stewart had indicated that a deal with the 2004 premier-series champion was imminent. The contract extension comes as Kurt Busch remains alive in his second straight appearance in the Chase postseason. He qualified for the playoffs in his first season with SHR, converting a Martinsville Speedway victory in his sixth race in the No. 41 into a Chase berth. Busch was knocked from championship eligibility after the first three-race round of eliminations. NASCAR suspended the driver for the first three races of the 2015 season after a Delaware family court released its findings related to an investigation of domestic violence involving Kurt Busch . Since his return to the Sprint Cup Series, Kurt Busch has collected two victories (Richmond, Michigan) and three Coors Light Pole Awards in his first full season paired with veteran crew chief Tony Gibson. Kurt Busch has notched three top-10 finishes in the five Chase races thus far, propelling him past the first series of eliminations. He enters Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) at Talladega Superspeedway ranked third among the 12 drivers still in contention for the Sprint Cup championship. "To me, its a dream come true to have this opportunity," Kurt Busch said. "There's been a lot that I've accomplished here at Stewart-Haas in a short amount of time but there's so much more ahead of us in the future."
RELATED: Watch live at 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday Stewart-Haas Racing has called a news conference Wednesday with driver Kurt Busch and team co-owner Tony Stewart at 12 p.m. ET, the team announced Sunday night. There will also be a car unveiling, according to the team. The event will have video live-streamed -- bookmark NASCAR.com/presspass to tune in. Busch's contract is up at the end of 2016, and SHR officials have said the two sides were closing in on an agreement. Stewart in August said an extension would come "soon." A 27-time winner in NASCAR's top series, Busch has three wins since joining SHR for the 2014 season. In his two seasons at SHR, he's qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup twice. He's currently third in the standings with one race remaining in the Contender Round.
RELATED: Race results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It wasn't the sort of record that Kevin Harvick wanted to break, another runner-up finish in a season full of them with a repeat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the line. Harvick entered Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 as a pre-race favorite and the defending race winner. He was left with his 13th second-place effort of the year, his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet a scant 1.552 seconds behind eventual winner and first-time champion Kyle Busch . The baker's dozen of runner-up performances surpassed the modern-era record formerly held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1972 season. Those oh-so-close finishes -- balanced against three wins in 2015 -- helped him forge into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with rock-solid consistency, but it wasn't quite enough on Busch's night. "It's been a great couple years, and I know we're disappointed about finishing second tonight, but it's kind of the theme of the year, finishing second," Harvick said. "Unfortunately it's just one short, but all in all, it's been a great couple years, and couldn't be prouder of our bunch of guys." Harvick led once in the race's early stages for 46 of the 267 laps, but struggled to find the handling balance on the 1.5-mile track. "No rear grip. Won't turn," he called out to crew chief Rodney Childers during the sixth of seven caution periods, hoping adjustments could help him regain his previous edge. Childers said he wasn't able to tell if alterations the team made overnight helped the No. 4 car or not, since track conditions were so much different from Saturday practices to Sunday's main event. But he said he's historically fought the same issue -- "tight getting in and too loose off" -- in past visits to the South Florida speedway. "We haven't been able to get a hold of it," Childers said. "It's probably one of our worst race tracks really, but we won last year and finished second this year at a place we feel like we just can't get a hold of. We need to make some changes with our cars and try to do a better job coming down here next year. "All in all, we had a great car and a great season. You look at the wins and the top-fives and the top-twos, and it's pretty incredible what we've been able to do and just really proud of Kevin and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing ." The race's final caution flag with 11 laps left seemed to give Harvick new hope, and he jumped from fourth to second place shortly after the restart. But by then, Busch had swept around late-race leader Brad Keselowski to take command. Post-race, after thanking his team and accepting congratulations from Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch , a trademark smile formed on Harvick's face as he watched the 30-year-old Busch celebrate on the main stage -- seeing a little bit of his 2014 self in the No. 18 team's jubilation. It's a scenario that played out for Harvick last season, but was just one elusive position away. "I think when you race your whole life and you accomplish what you've raced for your whole life, it's exciting," Harvick said of Busch's first Sprint Cup championship. "I've been fortunate to experience that last year and know that feeling and know how gratifying that is. You know, it's fun to see that excitement. "He broke his leg at Daytona, and to come back from everything that he came back from, it's like I told you guys three or four days ago, I mean, there's four phenomenal stories that were sitting up on the stage, probably three that were much more exciting than mine, but that's a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona." WATCH: 'Dream come true' for Ky. Busch
Kurt Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing announce a partnership with Monster Energy for the 2016 season.
JOLIET, Ill. — If not for an inopportune late-race caution period Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway , Kurt Busch might've had the come-from-behind victory in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener that instead went to Denny Hamlin . The consolation prize was still a positive one, another character-building moment in a season stocked with them to kick off the playoffs. Busch rallied from early trouble, then survived a rock 'em-sock 'em restart with five laps remaining to get his Chase off to a solid start, collecting a third-place finish in the first of 10 postseason events. It wasn't quite the win that would have automatically transferred him to the round of 12, but it provided a slight buffer and more substantial confidence booster on a day when most playoff-eligible drivers avoided catastrophe. Busch took the lead for the final time at Lap 245 of 267 and appeared headed for victory when the yellow flag flew for debris. His crew chief, Tony Gibson, ordered Busch to keep his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 out to keep his position, making the former premier series champ one of just three lead-lap drivers -- the others being Hamlin and Jeff Gordon -- to shun pit road. "You hope it goes green to the end and a yellow popped out," Busch said. "The crew chief's like, 'let's stay out,' and I'm like, 'yeah, I think that'll work,' but you've got to remember these restarts, we're so boxed in and if somebody's got a little bit fresher grip to gain momentum on a restart, they're going to jump on you. So Jeff left the inside open, let the guys with fresh tires get to the inside, and it was a tough battle after that. But real proud of our team to bring it home third." Gibson wasn't second-guessing his decision to keep his driver on the track, saying that the tires for the eventual race winner were just as worn as Busch's . "I figured a lot of them were going to do the opposite of whatever I do, so you're kind of a sitting duck anyway," Gibson said. "I pit and take on four (tires) and come out fourth or fifth; in five laps, can I make it through all that crap and make it back? Those are the things you've got to think about, but I don't regret what I did. I think at the time with the information that I had, guys were talking on the radio about they're going to do the opposite of what I do, so I'm screwed either way." Busch initially expressed his surprise with the strategy call over the team's radio, saying, "I can't believe we stayed out." Post-race on pit road, Busch struck a tone of solidarity when discussing his veteran crew chief's decision. "Gibson said stay out and we work as a team," Busch said. "We win as a team; we lose as a team. Great points day." But beyond the decisive restart was a day of resilience. Busch pitted on the 87th lap after scraping the wall with a flat right-rear tire. A long green-flag run helped Busch to eventually return to the lead lap and to sync up with the same pit-stop cycle as the other front-runners. Gibson & Co. gave the car a once-over on its next stop, checking a spot of concern on the right-side fenders. Any damage was minimal; by Lap 184, Busch took the lead for the first time, remaining a force for the rest of the day. "We never give up, and we've had great finishes this year with Kurt when we've had things happen, but we're able to rally back and get good finishes," Gibson said. "That's usually what wins championships. The 48 (six-time champion Jimmie Johnson ) does it a lot. That was our game plan coming into today, and it's still our game plan when we leave." With playoff-eligible drivers taking eight of the top nine spots in Sunday's myAFibRisk.com 400 , there was little movement in the upper reaches of the Chase standings. But Busch is firmly there, ranking fifth in a top 10 that's separated by just 14 points. Last season, Busch was among the first four drivers eliminated when the field was pared to 12 after the opening Challenger Round. Next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , the former series champion aims to further solidify his footing at a track where he's won three times. "Led some laps, showed some strength, so we'll take that on to Loudon," Gibson said of the series' next race. "As long as you transfer to the next round, it doesn't matter how many you've won. You can win two of these first ones and still get knocked out in the second round. We're trying to build momentum and build steam and confidence, and today was the day we did that."