Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Double Mint Gum Toyota, at a pit stop during… (Sean Gardner / Getty Images )
Looking back at the weekend's motor-racing action, including the opening race in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, NHRA drag racing in Charlotte and more, five things come to mind:
--Kyle Busch finally looks in championship form. After too many years in which Busch stumbled out of the gate in the 10-race Chase after a strong regular season, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver looked title ready Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Yes, teammate Matt Kenseth swept past Busch on the final restart with 23 laps left to claim the victory, but Busch finished second and kept his cool afterward, a show of poised determination that will serve him well in the coming Chase races.
--The tenacity award goes to Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. All three overcame early problems at Chicagoland to finish fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, and start their Chase efforts on a strong note. Gordon, of course, was a last-minute addition to the playoff, and wouldn't it be something if the Hendrick Motorsports driver won his fifth career championship after getting into the Chase via NASCAR Chairman Brian France's controversial fiat?
--The Chase next moves to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and guess who each has three wins there? That's right: Gordon, Johnson and Kurt Busch. Only Jeff Burton, with four victories, has more career wins on the 1.06-mile oval in Loudon, N.H. And while Kenseth is off to a fast start with his victory at Chicagoland, he's never won at New Hampshire. Watch for the Chase standings to get a good shake after Sunday's race there.
--John Force Racing has its problems but still knows how to win. Robert Hight, the former funny car champion and president of Force's team, is in title contention again after winning the weekend's funny car event at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, his second consecutive victory. The latest win came after John Force announced in Charlotte that the team would aggressively seek new sponsors to replace Ford and Castrol, who are dropping Force's Yorba Linda, Calif.-based team after next year.
--Donny Schatz keeps dominating the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series. The driver for Tony Stewart's team won his 20th series race of the year this weekend in Spencer, Iowa, and the 144th of his career. Schatz is a five-time series champion, and his remarkable run has given Stewart something to smile about while Stewart recovers from suffering a severely broken right leg in a sprint-car crash of his own Aug. 5.
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