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Monday, March 21, 2011

Kyle Busch has potential to rewrite the record books

Not so many years ago, Kurt Busch was the master of Bristol Motor Speedway, rattling off an impressive string of wins.

It appears Bristol is in the Busch brothers’ blood, as younger brother Kyle is now the current undisputed king of Bristol after sweeping the weekend there for the second consecutive time – he won all three races last August and both races this weekend. Never in NASCAR’s history has a driver swept two straight weekends at one track.

Busch led 153 laps and claimed his first win of the season, but it will definitely not be his last. Busch has shown he is a threat nearly every week and will be a force when it comes time to battle for the championship.

With the win, Busch’s 20th overall in Cup, the tornado that is Kyle Busch continues to blow apart the competition. The fact that he outdueled extremely strong competition like “5-time” Jimmie Johnson and super-hot Carl Edwards shows that the #18 team is at the top of its game. Not only is the driver awesome, but the team is giving its all on pit road and at the shop to make his wins possible.

Ask any driver, and they’ll tell you Bristol is one of the hardest tracks in NASCAR to win on. The fact that Kyle Busch has done it five times in three different series in the past five races is a testament to the tremendous potential he has to rewrite the record books (with the exception of the King’s 200 wins of course … they ran a lot more races back then, so that’s the only one that’s probably safe).

Don’t forget about Jimmie
While other drivers like Carl Edward, Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne have taken the biggest headlines away from him so far this year, Sunday at Bristol was a reminder to all of us that Jimmie Johnson is not about to be forgotten.

When he took the lead mid-race, I thought the same thing most people probably did: “Here we go again”. This man is a five-time champ, and it’s clear he’s not about to let others take his crown easily. Despite not winning (he was doomed when he came out of the pits fourth in the final sequence), Johnson managed a third-place finish and jumped from 12th to 7th in the points. And if he and Chad Knaus have their way, and they usually do, the #48 will be moving up even more in the future weeks as he racks up a bunch of wins.

Menard’s roll continues
Another Chevy drivers who had good days included Paul Menard, who’s amazing start to the year has him fifth in points, fitting since he finished 5th in Sunday’s race. No one predicted this, but Menard is far about his teammates in the points, and he’s done it on different types of tracks so it’s very likely he can actually stay up front and contend for the Chase – something that would be pretty amazing considering his past struggles at different teams and all the doubt about his ability to succeed at the top level of NASCAR.

Harvick, Biffle rebound
Kevin Harvick spun late in the race, but still somehow finished a strong 6th and jump to 15th in the point standings, and is on the right track after a rough start. Greg Biffle also recovered from a shaky start Sunday to jump 8 spots in the points to 23rd.

Keselowski’s tire woes continue
I’m not sure what the crews are doing to set up Brad Keselowski’s cars, but the guy’s had a hell of a bad run with tires blowing these past few weeks. In Nationwide action, for three straight weeks he has blown a tire. This week, it happened on the Cup side.

For a guy who completed almost every lap in Nationwide last season, these kind of issues are bizarre, and I’m curious if the Penske team will be able to get to the bottom of this anytime soon.

Labonte’s career resurrected
Not long ago, I and others had left Bobby Labonte’s career for dead, but he is trying to prove us all wrong this year in his new ride. Labonte finished in 13th at Bristol and is near the Chase cutoff in the points. While still a longshot, he is racing like a guy who still has what it takes to contend for wins and the title, something we haven’t seen from him in a long time.

"We were good all day. It just seemed like the longer the runs went, the better we were,” he said after Sunday’s race at Bristol. “ We just had a little bit of an issue with going on the green flag runs. Guys did a really good job though for no more practice then we had on this tire. It was a good, strong run for us. We beat a lot of good cars today. We got too tight there at the end. We just really didn't get the car freed up enough there at the end. It was so hard to pass and track position meant so much."

As someone who watched Labonte win races and a title over a decade ago with the Gibbs organization, it’s nice to see him running well, and I’m glad I was wrong about his career.

Bristol top runners are your likely title contenders
As I watched the great battles up front for the lead at Bristol, one thought was in my head – these are the guys who will run for the title.

All the heavy hitters were doing great – Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick … and Kurt Busch, who is trying to crash the party in 2011 and doing a great job so far.

Johnson said after the race that Edwards is the hottest of all of them.
“If you're going to go on short term results, you look who has done the best, it's the 99.”

Harvick said Sunday that his team is definitely going to be battling for the title come year’s end, because it knows how to overcome setbacks.
"We have a championship team. We proved that we could race for it last year. Everybody is just so confident in each other and everybody is just mellow on the radio and when something happens we just fix it and come back. That's not a feeling I've ever had until last year and these first four weeks I've had that feeling over and over again and we keep fighting back," he said.

Gordon unhappy with Keselowski
There wasn’t any fights this time, but the Bristol anger did pop up a little bit. Jeff Gordon wasn’t happy with Brad Keselowski for a move Brad made during the race while laps down.

“Well, the guy was three laps down. I understand. He’s trying to keep from going a lap down and hey, you’ve got to give him credit. They fought back and got back on the lead lap and got a decent finish out of it. I’ll just tell Brad that the next time I’m three laps down, and he’s on the lead lap, just expect the same out of me, you know?” Gordon said. “I don’t expect him to just let off. He had a fast race car. But when you’re three laps down and then you door-slam the guy trying to pass; that’s what ticked me off is when he got loose underneath me and got up into me, I got pretty mad then.”

Ford Mustang contest
For the fourth year in a row, Ford Customer Service Division brands Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center and will give away one of Ford’s hottest vehicles to one lucky winner. This year’s contest has a Grand Prize package that includes a 2012 Ford Mustang GT (maximum MSRP $29,995) with $5,000 in Ford Racing Performance Parts and Ford Custom Accessories.

Fans age 18 years and older are invited to enter at the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Experience at select NHRA Full Throttle Series events, online at and, or by texting FORDNHRA to 57682 between now and Nov. 21, 2011. The winner will be chosen by random drawing.
“Ford consumers are passionate about the brand, from purchase to maintenance, and that passion gets passed down,” said Brett Wheatley, Director of Marketing, Ford Customer Service Division. “We see fans from all generations stopping by at our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Experience display. We’re proud to see them experience Ford’s latest products, and happy to give one winner a new Ford Mustang GT.”
Follow the contest on Facebook (Motorcraft and Quick Lane Racing) and Twitter (MQL_Racing) for the latest updates.

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