Had he not been sidelined 11 races, Kyle Busch would be a lock to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup on the strength of two victories he's earned this season.
But Busch must finish be 30th or better in the regular season standings to be playoff eligible. And on that front more work remains.
With eight regular-season races remaining, Busch is 87 points behind 30th-ranked Cole Whitt and will likely need to average a 17th-place finish to move above the cutline. In seven starts since returning, Busch has recorded two victories and an average finish of 16.9. Whitt owns an average finish of 28.1 on the season.
"We just go out every week and try to perform at our best and we know that our best will put us in a good enough spot in order gather those points in order to get in the top-30 in points," Busch said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "We'll be fine, we just have to do the right things and if this Sunday is an eighth-place finish, then that's what it is. If it's a 12th, then that's what it is."
The situation he finds himself Busch compares that to a driver who doesn't have a win, but is high enough in the standings to get into the Chase via a wildcard. Because in both instances, the best path to the playoffs is racing to accrue points, not wins.
"I think if we were a team that was sort of 13th through 16th or whatever and didn't have wins then we'd be in the same position we're in right now -- we're racing for points," Busch said. "We have to get those points to be the highest eligible guy without the win, but our circumstances are a little different -- we've got wins and yet we still seem to be out."
By winning and leading the most laps last Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, Busch earned max points (48) and trimmed 41 points off the deficit between himself and Whitt.
That margin would likely be smaller had Busch not crashed out of races at Dover International Speedway and Michigan International Speedway. In each race he had been running solidly in the top-10.
"I feel like I probably gave away 60 points in those two so I would be 17 out right now, which would be essentially nothing," Busch said. "We might even had made that up here this weekend."
Busch broke his right leg and left foot in an accident during the Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Of the two injuries, he says the foot has been most difficult to rehabilitate and would've returned three weeks sooner had he only broken his leg.
But the foot continues to feel better, though he said it still flares up occasionally. When Busch got out of the car to celebrate victory at Kentucky there was little discomfort, as opposed to when he won June 28 on the Sonoma Raceway road course and began feeling pain with 25 laps to go.
"I feel 100 percent behind the wheel of the car and I can push the brakes real well -- I think we saw that at Sonoma," Busch said. "But then you get the adrenaline to take over and get going when you're having a shot at the win and you don't feel anything until the next day afterwards when everything kind of calms back down.
"Last week at Kentucky everything went real well, real smooth actually. Got out of the car and walked around for all the media stuff afterwards and didn't really feel any ill effects."