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LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 26: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, laughs on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway on June 26, 2021 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 26: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, laughs on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway on June 26, 2021 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Kurt Busch Back Inside Playoff Bubble with Strong Run at Pocono

By Dustin Albino

LONG POND, Pa. — Whenever the NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway, Kurt Busch is going to be a factor.

That was once again the case in Saturday’s Pocono Organics CBD 325.

Busch took the green flag from eighth position, after having a strong run last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. By the end of the opening stage, the No. 1 Chevrolet had races up to seventh, earning four stage points.

In the second stage, Busch made his first pit stop of the race on lap 53. On lap 60, the No. 1 team caught a timely caution, cycling him back inside the top five. On the restart, he pushed his brother Kyle Busch to the lead, and when the yellow flag flew on lap 70, Kyle pitted. That handed the lead over to the No. 1 car.

From there, Busch led the next 11 laps en route to the stage victory, his second of the season.

“We had a good run at Nashville, so that allowed us to run up front and we stayed up front today,” Busch told Jayski.com after the race. “Our plan was to pit twice and utilize our fuel mileage that Chevy has been working on. The car was good enough to hang up there; I was just loose every lap so I couldn’t push hard on restarts. I had to find the right holes to manage the track position and ultimately that hung us like, fourth, fifth, sixth.

“We did everything we could today to get the points and have a nice solid run.”

In the final stage, Busch was a mainstay inside the top 10. But by going the two stop route, the No. 1 car  would have to stay longer on pit road during the final stage, as opposed to other cars that needed to just top off their respective fuel tanks.

Ultimately, Busch took the checkered flag in sixth, his third consecutive top-10 finish. It’s the first time he’s had three straight top 10s since last July.

“It’s nice that things are falling our way,” Busch added. “Law of averages are helping with a little bit of luck. Just finding those good holes on restarts to get into. When you have those, usually that comes from speed in the car. We’re there. We’re knocking on the door. And yes, it’s nice to have three solid runs and now we’re in the black as far as points to make the playoffs.”

Entering the 325-mile race, Busch was 17th on the playoff grid, 24 points below the cutline. With Chris Buescher — who came into the event in the coveted 16th position — scoring no stage points and ending up 20th in the final rundown, the No. 1 team gained 28 points on the No. 17 car.

Now, Busch is four points to the good.

But he’s not going to let up now, despite gaining 87 points over the last three races.

“We’ve got to keep pushing because you never know who can pop up for a win,” Busch said. “We’re going to keep chasing it. We’ve got [Tyler] Reddick ahead of, Austin Dillon ahead of us. Those are our next two targets.”

Based on the top-20 invert, Busch will start 15th in Sunday’s Explore the Pocono Mountains 350.