By Jim Peltz
7:17 PM EDT, July 8, 2013
Despite driving for one of NASCAR's smaller teams, Kurt Busch has moved into title contention -- for now.
Busch, who drives the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, climbed to ninth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings after his sixth-place finish Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Although winless so far this season, Busch has finished in the top 10 in five of his last seven races. And he's a three-time winner at the track the Cup series visits next, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The top 10 drivers in points after 26 races qualify for NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Cup title playoff, along with two wild-card drivers who have the most wins among those 11th to 20th in points.
Busch, the Cup series' champion in 2004 when he drove for what is now Roush Fenway Racing, is a Las Vegas native and older brother of fellow Cup driver Kyle Busch.
In recent years the mercurial Kurt Busch, 34, mainly has made headlines for his occasional angry public outbursts, which contributed to his departure from Penske Racing after the 2011 season.
He then drove 29 of last season's 36 races for the one-car team of Phoenix Racing before moving to Denver-based Furniture Row, another one-car team but one that has a strategic alliance with the larger Richard Childress Racing team.
But Busch's hold on a potential Chase spot is tenuous.
With eight races left before the Chase, three drivers -- Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne -- are all within 11 points of Busch in the standings. And all three of those drivers have one victory this season.
In other words, unless Busch can stay in the top 10 in points over the next eight races, he'll need at least one win as well -- and will need to be 11th or 12th in the points -- if he wants to secure a Chase berth and a shot at a second championship.
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