|LOUDON, N.H. -- Stuck in a hospital, Kyle Busch could only think about a comeback, not championship contention.|
Could he imagine, days after a horrific crash, that he would become a title contender?
"Yeah, right," he said. "You're crazy."
Nothing seems preposterous these days for Busch, whose dormant-to-dominant run over the past two months has not only made him a regular in Victory Lane but also steamrolled him toward the cusp of a Chase berth.
Busch rolled on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, winning for the second straight weekend and the third time in the past four Sprint Cup races.
"This is something I'm not sure we ever would have expected," Busch said.
It is the second time Busch has won back-to-back races (July 2008, when he won eight races that season).
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Busch isn't where he needs to be in the standings quite yet. His three wins are certainly enough to earn a Chase for the Sprint Cup championship berth. But he is still outside the top 30 in points, which is the second major qualifier to race for the title in the final 10 events of the season.
He won at Sonoma Raceway and last week at Kentucky Speedway and is 33rd in the standings, 58 points behind David Gilliland for 30th. Busch has gained 70 points on the 30th spot over the past two races.
Cole Whitt is 31st and Brett Moffitt 32nd, easy pickings for Busch.
"I'm not sure we've unleashed the beast at all," Busch said.
Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a crash the day before the season-opening Daytona 500. He missed the first 11 races of the season then returned in late May determined to earn a playoff spot.
Busch, who last won at New Hampshire in July 2006, said Friday he still is bothered by the leg injuries. The aches hardly seemed to matter in the No. 18 Toyota.
"Ever since that injury, he's been on it," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "I don't know what [the deficit is] now, but it's sure helping."
NASCAR granted Busch a waiver upon his return that made him Chase eligible, should he qualify. He has seven races left to crack the top 30 before the Chase opens Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway.
With Busch in the Chase or not, JGR has three other contenders in Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth finished sixth, Edwards started from the pole and was seventh, and Hamlin ended up 14th. JGR took four of the top five spots at Kentucky. Busch won, and Hamlin-Edwards-Kenseth went 3-4-5.
"I think we're certainly back, closer," Gibbs said. "I don't know that we've turned the corner."
Busch had one of his best performances in his comeback, rallying from a lap down to win. Busch, who led 95 laps, stayed out during a late pit stop to take the lead from contenders Brad Keselowski and Kenseth.
Keselowski was second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski led a race-high 101 laps, and his No. 2 Ford appeared to be the car to beat, leaving him clearly irked at losing the lead with 48 laps left.
How tough would it be to beat Busch in the Chase?
"He's good," Keselowski grumbled, "but we're a good team and I feel like we can beat him."
Crew chief Adam Stevens, in his first season calling the shots in Cup for JGR, made all the right choices to keep Busch in contention for the win.
"I don't have any fears of being able to close that gap," Stevens said of the effort to make the top 30 in points.
Busch was joined by son Brexton, born in late May, in Victory Lane wearing a No. 18 outfit. He should have borrowed his son's bibs for the winner's 21-pound lobster he was awarded.
He also made it 12 different winners at the last 12 New Hampshire races, the longest active streak at any track without a multiple-race winner in NASCAR.
On a day with temperatures soaring into the 90s, Matt DiBenedetto and Michael Annett were treated after the race at the NASCAR care center.
"This is one of the warmest days I can remember in this part of the country," Busch said.
The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.