NASCAR: Is this the year Busch wins Cup?
Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2011
Scripps Howard News Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. ó Kyle Busch is now locked into the Chase for the Cup.
The question is, does it really matter?
That seems like a cynical way to view the exploits of one of NASCARís winningest drivers, especially after he racked up his series-leading fourth checker of the season last week at Michigan.
Making the win even sweeter was the way he did it ó overtaking five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to secure his first ever victory at Michigan International Raceway and 23rd Cup conquest overall. Then, he won the Nationwide race on Friday.
That makes 102 checkered flags in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks series combined, a phenomenal feat for the 26-year old Toyota driver.
As dynamic as Busch can be during the regular season, he often fades quickly once the 10-race playoffs get under way.
More years than not the Joe Gibbs Racing driver truly looks likes the guy to beat after 26 races, but then seems to be an entirely different pilot on an entirely different team in the events that matter most.
In college basketball terms, he is the high seed who bows out in the first round of the Big Dance.
Naturally, the issue came up againrecently.
Is this year different? Can he really go the distance in 2011?
ěCertainly Iíd like to give ourselves a lot of credit that we can do that, that we have the ability to do that,î he said. ěI feel like itís anybodyís game right now still. Certainly itís going to be a run down to the end, a run to Homestead. The points are tight. With any bad day it seems to hurt you so much, you really have to concentrate on battling back, getting yourself back up in the points.
ěFor us itís going to come to being about minimizing those bad days and keeping our heads on straight.î
Currently heís at the top of the standings, but even if he wasnít ranked he would already be in the Chase by virtue of the wildcard system that awards spots to drivers with the most wins outside the top 10.
Since he has the best of both worlds, he and crew chief Dave Rogers can afford to play fast and loose in the races leading up to the ěpostseason.î
But he realizes he has something to prove, and he isnít about to coast into the Chase.
Having triple digit victories over three NASCAR platforms is impressive, indeed, but until he wins a championship at the top level heíll always have his name prefaced with the phrase, ěThe greatest driver who never …î
For a man with the talent ó and ego ó of Busch, thatís tough to take.
Last season he finished eighth in the standings and his best season-ending showing was fifth, back in 2007.
Itís been said before of course ó too many times ó but it can be said again in 2011.
Maybe Kyle Busch finally really is the man to beat.
ěWe feel pretty good with where our program is heading,î Busch said. ěWhat Dave has been doing has been awesome. All the guys have pulled through and done a really nice job. Whether this is a statement win or not, thatís not our intention. Our intention is to win every single one of them.î