LOUDON, N.H. – To win his second Nextel Cup Series championship, Kurt Busch will have to rally from the back.
He can look to last season’s champion, Jimmie Johnson, to chart a course to make it happen.
Busch, who started third in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, developed an engine problem early in the race and, despite several pit stops, could never regain full speed.
He finished 25th and dropped to 12th in the standings, trailing Johnson and Jeff Gordon – who are tied for the lead – by 102 points.
Busch isn’t quite in as bad a position as Johnson was last year. Johnson finished 39th in this race a year ago and rallied from 139 points back to win his first series championship.
“We lost power and we tried to troubleshoot it the best that we could. It’s kind of tough to accept this one,” said Busch.
“We just need this to happen at this point.
“It would have been nice maybe at Charlotte where I don’t run so good to have a motor failure. It’s just tough. I guess, all in all, we finished 25th and it could have been more like 43rd.”
Busch has rallied once this season just to make the 12-driver field for the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
He was as low as 16th in points in June and trailed Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 236 points for the 12th spot in the Chase field entering the July 8 race at Daytona Beach, Fla. In the next nine races, he won twice and got seven top-10 finishes to earn a chance to win his second series title.
Pat Tryson, Busch’s crew chief, took the problem in stride.
“Something in the carburetor broke and we weren’t getting the throttle response we needed. We hadn’t had any of those problems all year,” he said.
“We thought we had one cold cylinder. We did what we could do to survive and finish the race.
“Jimmie Johnson didn’t start off so great last year, so maybe we can make up points like he did in the next nine and win this thing.”
Busch, for his part, also tried to stay positive.
“We’ll make it up. We’ll do the best we can,” he said.
“There is nothing you can do about problems. We got into this Chase by working hard and we’ll still do it.”