Before 2012 began, Kurt Busch talked about "old-school racing" as he moved to Phoenix Racing after parting ways with Penske Racing. AJ Allmendinger, the man who replaced Busch at Penske, talked about hitting singles before going for the long-ball -- a metaphor for building off of solid finishes before the team competed for wins.
Right now, Allmendinger is taking called strikes while no amount of old school fabrication could fix the mangled up racecars that are piling up in the Phoenix Racing shop. After Sunday's race at Vegas, the two are tied for 29th in the points standings.
The story of Busch's first three races has been crashes. At Daytona, he was collateral damage in Elliott Sadler's bump of Jimmie Johnson. At Vegas, Busch's day started getting caught a lap down when the caution flew during his green-flag pit stop, and it ended with his car torn all to shreds after he hit the inside backstretch wall.
Allmendinger's 500 effectively ended when he ran into Ryan Newman on pit road and had to go behind the wall for repairs. And then the next week at Phoenix, he salvaged an 18th place finish after the spoiler was ripped off his car in a crash involving Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray. On Sunday, he had a fuel pressure issue and finished 37th.
Being 81 points behind leader Greg Biffle doesn't bode well for either Allmendinger or Busch's Chase chances. Last year, the lowest Chase driver leaving Las Vegas was Brad Keselowski. He was 23rd, 50 points behind Tony Stewart. Under the old points system in the previous four years, the lowest a Chase driver has ever been after three races is Martin Truex, Jr., who was 245 points behind in 27th.
Of course, the institution of the Wild Card changes things, so Allmendinger and Busch aren't kaputs just yet. But at this rate, victory lane for either driver seems far, far away.