NASCAR: Expect Busch to win again
By Jenna Fryer
CHARLOTTE ó Kyle Busch can’t win everywhere, proven by two horrendous races this season at Pocono Raceway.
The Sprint Cup Series points leader ran out of gas Sunday and wound up a frustrating 36th. As miserable as the final result was, it was still an improvement over his last-place finish there in June.
He bounced back from that accident-ending first visit to Pocono, reeling off three wins in the five races that followed. Whether he can do it again ó or will even try ó remains to be seen.
Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team have a decision to make over the next five weeks: they can try to reclaim the momentum Busch has used all season while earning a series-best seven Cup wins, or they can start planning and preparing for the Chase for the championship.
Jimmie Johnson took the latter route the past few years as he and crew chief Chad Knaus used this part of the schedule to fine-tune their Chase package. Although it cost them victories in August, they were rewarded with back-to-back championships the past two seasons.
But patience is hardly one of Busch’s virtues, and trying to get NASCAR’s resident wild child to rein it in for a monthlong test session could be an impossible challenge.
“I am not so sure he’s capable of backing off,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “I think he’s kind of got a mind-set ó which I think is the best way to race for a championship ó to go after it every week. We wouldn’t want to have him do anything other than try to win every race.”
Fortunately for Busch, the points system encourages him to do just that.
Since NASCAR implemented a 10-point bonus last year for every “regular season” victory, there’s a renewed emphasis on racing for wins rather than top-10 finishes. Busch already has a series-best 70 bonus points he’ll roll into the Chase, and his closest challenger is Carl Edwards, who now has 30 bonus points after Sunday’s win at Pocono.
Edwards should actually have 40 bonus points, but he was docked 10 after his race-winning car in Las Vegas failed inspection. But in closing the gap at Pocono, Edwards took some of the shine off of Busch’s comfy lead by becoming his closest current Chase challenger at just 40 points back.
But is Edwards’ sudden surge ó he’s got a win and a pair of second-place finishes in the past four races ó enough to put a panic in Busch? Or maybe force crew chief Steve Addington to contemplate strategy over the rest of the month?
Gibbs is correct in doubting Busch can pull back a bit and focus on the bigger picture. For all the strides the 23-year-old has made this year in maturity, he’s still a moody driver who is deeply effected by his on-track performance.
“I’m not a happy person when I’m not running well,” he admitted.