Kurt Busch isn't your typical underdog, but the former NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion is in the process of proving you don't need to be on a big-money team to be competitive in stock car racing's premier circuit.
After he was fired by Penske Racing in 2011 when his famous temper got the better of him and he belittled a reporter on air, Busch has been forced to climb his way back up through the ranks with some of NASCAR's smaller teams.
First with Phoenix Racing in 2012 and now with Furniture Row Racing in 2013, Busch has been able to keep up with the big boys. This season he has the No. 78 car in a position to earn a spot in the Chase, something usually reserved exclusively for the sports powerhouses.
A one-car operation based in the stock car outpost of Colorado, Furniture Row Racing has never been a force in its eight years in NASCAR. The team did record one win in 2011 when former driver Regan Smith took the checkered flag at Darlington, but consistent finishes were never there. Until this year the No. 78 car's best finish in owner points was 24th and a spot in the Chase was never more than a dream.
With Busch behind the wheel this season the team has been competitive week in and week out. They've overcome some bad luck early in the year and three straight top 10 finishes have allowed Busch to climb into the top 10 in driver points standings with eight races to go before the 12-team Chase field is set.
With 501 points, Busch is sitting in ninth place, behind two drivers each from Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing - three of the biggest outfits in the sport. One driver each from Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing are also in front of Busch through 18 races.
More importantly for Busch, he's sitting in front of the likes of former series champions and Chase regulars Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.
Without a win this season, Busch's post-season chances are still precarious, but he'll be looking to change that this week when the series rolls into New Hampshire for the Camping World RV Sales 301 on Sunday. He's won three times at the Cup level on the track, most recently in 2008 when he won the summer event.
The 2004 series champion has never shied away from getting into it with other drivers on the track, but his best chance for success during the final two months of the regular season is to keep his temper in check. He knows a poor finish or two brought on by overly aggressive driving will end Furniture Row's amazing season.