NASCAR: Daytona 500 and Bandicoots On Acid

A jubilant Joey Logano celebrates his Daytona 500 win.

A jubilant Joey Logano celebrates his Daytona 500 win.

This past Sunday the 57th Daytona 500 was held and Joey Logano can finally be comfortable with the “Sliced Bread” moniker given him several years ago.

It was a strong indication that Penske Racing is going to be a factor in 2015 and is the default ‘Factory’ team for Ford.

The weeks leading up to the storied event, however, weren’t so kind to NASCAR.

A change in the qualifying was in order and NASCAR certainly changed it, to the chagrin and openly critical display of the drivers.

To NASCAR’s credit something had to be done. Three hours to qualify for a race is simply too long and takes up far too much valuable broadcast air time leaving a potentially new audience who might tune in to the marathon with a feeling of boredom.

“If qualifying is this boring how much more interesting could the race be” was the comment that I heard most. The problem was that NASCAR simply isn’t Formula One and can’t use a knockout style format with the same level of execution, there are simply too many cars and too many desperate drivers to not have carnage. Carnage they had.

Kyle Busch did not walk away from this crash.

Kyle Busch did not walk away from this crash.

As posted in a previous article our technical expert, Bill Marlowe, suggested the following format, which is worth repeating:

(1) Have all 48-50 cars line up diagonally on pit road.

(2) Each qualifying group would consist of no more than 8-10 cars

(3) In a blind draw, the first 10 cars are selected 5, maybe 8 minutes before they run. This ultimately gives a total of about 5-6 groups.

(4) In a second tandem blind draw, each car selected is given its starting position from pit road.

(5) The 1st ten cars have 5 minutes to line up on pit road.

(6) When the signal is given to go, group 1 has 5 minutes to accelerate, get up to speed and set a time.

(7) While the 1st group is out the blind draw process repeats itself.

(8) While the 1st group is on its cool down lap and coming to pit lane the 2nd group is already being released.

This format would take approximately one hour allowing for any engine failures, crashes or debris on track stoppages.

"The Lunatics Are in the Hall"- Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

“The Lunatics Are in the Hall”- Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

Let’s hope that something is changed for Talladega.

On Saturday Kyle Busch, during the Xfinity race, exited the racing surface and laterally contacted an inside retaining wall that did not have the advantage of a safer barrier. He broke his left leg and his ankle. He’s fortunate not to have lost his life.

You have to believe that the only reason there wasn’t a safer barrier in place is that NASCAR has become so large in its bureaucracy that by committee it couldn’t have foreseen such an accident. That’s what happens when delegating authority too quickly or by committee is employed. After all, the wall was certainly in place for the next day.

How hard was that? Not as hard as Busch’s crash.

Then comes the story that had everyone from TMZ to Al-Jazeera writing about it. Kurt Busch’s indefinite suspension from NASCAR due to a restraining order obtained from his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll.

It’s no secret that Kurt Busch has an anger problem. It’s no secret that NASCAR really has no warm and fuzzy feelings for the elder Busch. It’s no secret that by all outward appearances, both he and Driscoll are crazier than a pair of Bandicoot’s on acid.

However, it seems that NASCAR does, from time to time, exact revenge on it’s detractors or troublemakers. Travis Kvapil really screwed up. He plead guilty of domestic abuse and was given probation and no disciplinary punishment handed down by NASCAR.

Again, NASCAR may have had every reason, and they certainly have the right, to kick Busch to the curb.

It does seem, however, on the surface, to be a bit hypocritical. Maybe yes, maybe no. No one can argue that domestic abuse is both unacceptable and appalling, but how often is it used for revenge? Often enough.

How easy is it to manipulate the courts? Damned easy many times.

Having been a witness in a Florida Capital Case I can tell you that what you hear in a courtroom is not necessarily what happened. Truth becomes an abstract. I watched a very guilty person walk away.

But this is NASCAR and not a courtroom. They are a private, not a public company.

They have stabilized, to a large degree, their loss of viewership. Perhaps not the actual attendees to the race, they may never return, but NASCAR and it’s cadre’ of high paid lawyers weren’t going to take the chance that Kurt Busch could, and he certainly could have, won the Daytona 500 only to be charged with a crime later on.

Ms. Driscoll has exacted her pound of flesh, for now, NASCAR has saved face in the American public’s eyes and there is now a safer barrier where there should have been one all along.

The Daytona 500 went off without a hitch and perhaps NASCAR has listened to the suggestions of others erudite in technical matters regarding qualifying on large tracks such as Daytona and Talladega.

Oh, and Joy Logano won his first Daytona 500 with authority.

Busch In The Hunt As Talladega Looms Next In Chase

Kyle Busch has had nothing but top-10 finishes so far in the Chase. As a result, he's moved up to second place in the point standings.

Kyle Busch has had nothing but top-10 finishes so far in the Chase. As a result, he’s moved up to second place in the point standings.

If Joey Logano, the points leader as the Chase for the Sprint Cup moves into the final race of the Contender Round at Talladega, happens to hear someone breathing down his neck, well, it’s Kyle Busch.

Logano, who drives for Team Penske, has been sensational in the Chase. He’s won twice and finished fourth three times in the five races held so far. His latest victory, at Kansas, moved him comfortably into the Eliminator Round.

But as good as Logano has been, Busch, who races for Joe Gibbs Racing, is nearly his equal.

Busch is second in points and he is only six behind Logano – a difference that can easily be made up in a single race.

In the Chase, Busch has not finished out of the top 10. His lowest finish has been 10th at Dover but in the last two weeks he’s taken third at Kansas and fifth at Charlotte.

Busch was ranked eighth in points with one victory when the Chase began. He’s gained six spots in five races.

Obviously, Busch likes the way things are going.

“It certainly feels good that we’re heading in the right direction at the right time of the year,” he said. “It’s all about peaking at the right time. Hopefully we haven’t peaked yet, and we still have a way to climb. I feel like we do, anyways.

“We haven’t won in the Chase. There’s opportunity there.

“Again, it’s just trying to get ourselves smarter each and every week about making the right decisions and unloading with the right setups in these cars.

Joey Logano, shown here leading Busch, is No. 1 in the standings but Busch is only six points behind after five Chase races.

Joey Logano, shown here leading Busch, is No. 1 in the standings but Busch is only six points behind after five Chase races.

Busch suggested that although he and his team are running well, they would have to be as good – or better – than several others if they hope to ultimately challenge for a championship.

“We certainly have been fighting really hard at Joe Gibbs Racing to get ourselves up to running with the level of competition that we’ve been seeing from our competitors,” Busch said. “Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have really been the cars to beat this year.

“Looking at those four, you automatically punch those four all the way through to the end and those are the guys who are going to be racing for the championship.”

Right now, one would think that Busch might just be racing for the championship also. He and his team have displayed the caliber of performance it takes.

Busch, however, thinks more can be done.

“All the pieces are coming together and they’re all coming together at the right time, as I said,” Busch said. “You can do great things.

“For us, hopefully, there’s still a continuation of that here in the next five weeks. We’ll have to have it.”

The next race of the Contender Round is at Talladega, unquestionably the most challenging track in NASCAR. High speeds in the draft and very close-quarters racing – lap after lap – create a situation where a single mistake can create a massive accident.

And who knows who will be involved?

“Being a winner at Talladega doesn’t matter at all,” Busch said. “It’s such a crapshoot that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.

“The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble.

“If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race.

“Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”



Kyle Busch Hopes Slump Ends At His Favorite Track, Bristol

Kyle Busch has been on a string of bad luck lately and he hopes that will change at Bristol. Still, he remains safe as a Chase contender.

Kyle Busch has been on a string of bad luck lately and he hopes that will change at Bristol. Still, he remains safe as a Chase contender.

Lately, Kyle Busch seems to be in the midst of a free fall – or so it seems.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has had a string of uncommon poor finishes as of late and, as a result, he has slipped in the point standings.

It would not appear he’s in any danger of not making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Coming into this weekend’s race at Bristol, he was 15th in points – but seeded eighth in the grid because of a victory.

That aside, what’s happened lately is not Busch’s style, not by a long shot.

Let’s go back to Sonoma in June, eight races ago.

Since that time Busch has finished 25th or worse five times.

Remarkably, in the additional three races he has three runnerup finishes, at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis.

But in the last three races, well, he’s hardly been noticed. He finished 42nd at Pocono, 40th at Watkins Glen and 39th at Michigan.

He once stood sixth in points after Indy. Now, as mentioned, he’s 15th.

You understand, of course, that little of what has happened is the fault of Busch or his team – for the most part, anyway.

It’s been a series of unfortunate mishaps, such as at Michigan, where he lasted just five laps before a crash sent him into the garage for repairs and an ultimate 39th-place finish.

These types of things happen to every NASCAR team at some point, perhaps more often to some than others.

Busch has a remarkable record at Bristol in all three Series. Even though he won the pole for the Aug. 20 truck race, he cut a tire late and finished well back in the pack.

Busch has a remarkable record at Bristol in all three Series. Even though he won the pole for the Aug. 20 truck race, he cut a tire late and finished well back in the pack.

Nevertheless, the timing does not suit Busch, not to mention much of anything else that’s happened.

“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s been a struggle. At Pocono we had an engine deal and then we got behind at the Glen with a fueling issue and crashed.

“Then at Michigan we were good on the first couple of laps on the bottom of the track. I got greedy, took it to the outside and crashed.”

Busch may well think that he can solve his problems at Bristol – as well he should.

At the 0.533-mile track he has 16 NASCAR series victories, five in Sprint Cup, seven in the Nationwide Series and four in the Camping World Truck Series.

In 2010 he became the first driver to sweep all three series races at one track.

But that won’t happen this year. He won the pole for the Aug. 20 truck race and led three times for 81 of 200 laps. He suffered a cut tire late in the event and finished 24th.

He had his chance at redemption in the Nationwide Series race on Aug. 22 and has another in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Aug. 23.

“When they changed the track to this current surface in 2007, I just really took to it right away,” Busch said. “I really liked it and I’ve been fast there, but also I’ve had great race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It’s just a fun race track no matter what series I’m running there.

“You make one mistake, or someone else makes one mistake, that’s it. We’re hoping things will fall in place this weekend and we get to victory lane.”

That would be a welcome change. Again, although Busch is safely in the Chase, there’s no doubt he would like to see overall performance – not to mention his luck – change.

“I feel like our cars have been mostly competitive,” he said. “They have not been 30th-place cars or anything like that.

“We just haven’t been able to finish.”

So far, through one event at Bristol that seems to remain unchanged.

But it ain’t over yet.









The Burning Busch: Kyle, That Is….

Kyle Busch could win this Championship if he can keep his mind focused on the big picture.

If anyone in the Sprint Cup Chase field has a ‘surface of the sun’ burning desire to win the 2013 Sprint Cup Championship, it has to be Kyle Busch.

Certainly that’s not to say that the rest of the field are any less on fire to take the top honors, but the Gibbs team has momentum and that counts for a great deal.

However, Kyle Busch may very well be the driver in the Gibbs stable who really is at a deficient when it comes down to closing the deal.

Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are two diametrically opposed drivers in both personality and driving style. Where Kenseth is smooth, nonplussed and focused, Kyle Busch is brash, hot headed and can, and does at times, lose focus.

Two races into the Chase does not a champion make, but as much as everyone believes Sebastian Vettel will take his 4th consecutive Formula One title, the general consensus is that Matt Kenseth will take his second in NASCAR. There are reasons for this school of thought.

Kenseth has the unique ability to adjust both his style and car throughout the course of a race and be at the front when it’s time to ring the dinner bell. He doesn’t get shaken up when something goes wrong or not according to the plan. The ‘best laid plans of mice and men’ and all that. He just adjusts to the situation.

Kyle Busch, on the other hand, can be shaken up, as we saw in 2012, by any number of issues whether they are on-track skirmishes or an ill handling car that he can’t drive through until the next pit stop.

Here’s real the elephant in the room. The ultimate victory for any racing driver is to beat his, or her, own teammate. After all, they’re in the same equipment. But you have to ask yourself the question: Will Kyle Busch take out his teammate if he feels he has to in order to win?

In NASCAR you see a certain amount of camaraderie, at least on the surface. The good old team player mentality. You don’t see that other forms of auto racing. Some of the drivers in F1 have never actually met or spoken to their rivals. Apart from their team mates and most despise one another. NASCAR, not so much until it’s crunch time.

Assuming that the Gibbs team continues to develop throughout the Chase, and that is a big if, we may be treated to two wholly different schools of thought when it comes to winning.

Kenseth has always been the quiet one, the one who races you clean, not much to say but steady as a rock. That mentality is what the odds favor to win the 2013 Sprint Cup Championship.

In racing, always watch out for the quiet ones. They’re thinking.

When racing cars at this level on the absolute edge against drivers who are right there near you, it requires a very focused and cerebral approach. It’s here that the old adage “He who loses his temper, loses” comes into play.

This isn’t UFC, this is chess.

Busch’s strong suit is his car control ability; Kenseth’s is his gray matter ability. That is what will win this championship rather than heroics.

However, we can never lose sight of the fact that Jimmie Johnson is lurking in the mix to spoil the prize for either of the Gibbs drivers, but at this stage even Johnson has a monster on his hands going into Dover.

Busch would have no problem running Johnson wide or pinch him into a corner. I don’t think he would have a problem doing whatever it takes to Kenseth either.

What hasn’t been talked about with any regularity is: Would Kenseth do the same to Kyle? My bet is that his attitude will adjust to the situation as the chase moves forward. In short, yes.

That’s another way of saying he want’s this championship bad enough to go rogue if he has to in order to win.

This years Chase may very well come down to who can be Jekyll when they need to be or Hyde.

They don’t call Dover “The Monster Mile” for nothing.

Kyle Busch Model Of Perfection At Texas

Kyle Busch is all smiles after his victory in the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver swept Texas as he won the Cup race pole, the Nationwide Series race and the NRA event.

There is such a thing as perfection, but to achieve it is very rare.

At Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch was the model of perfection. He could not have performed better – nor could anyone else.

The 27-yeard-old driver for Joe Gibbs Racing won the pole for the NRA Sprint Cup race, followed that with a convincing win in the Nationwide Series race and then he took the big one.

He dominated the field to win the NRA 500.

Busch won everything there was to win at Texas.

It was the seventh time in his career that Busch has swept the NSCS and NNS events during a race weekend – and all seven sweeps have been while driving a Toyota for JGR.

Now, all of this may not sit well with the fans that love to hate Busch – they disapprove of his perceived arrogance – but no one can deny that Busch is one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR.

Yes, he was the last man out in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, losing out to Jeff Gordon.

But he closed the season with seven-top five finishes in the Chase’s 10 races.

After a slow start early in the season, Busch finished fourth at Las Vegas, first at Auto Club Speedway and fifth at Martinsville a week ago.

And now he has won at Texas, which means that over the last 17 races, dating back to 2012, Busch has earned 12 top-five finishes, including two victories.

Busch is fashioning his best season since 2008, when he won eight Cup races, 10 Nationwide events and three in the Camping World Truck Series.

Busch moved from fourth to third in the point standings, just nine points behind Brad Keselowski and 18 behind leader Johnson.

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56) finished second at Texas after leading 142 laps. For Truex Jr., it was very disappointing since he hasn’t won in six years.

From the pole position, went on to lead 171 laps, more than any other driver.

However, he lost his lead to Martin Truex Jr., in Michael Waltrip’s Toyota, when Truex Jr. got off pit road first following a caution created by a crash between Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton that ended on lap 290.

Truex Jr., having one of his best performances in a long time, led 25 laps before another caution period began on lap 315 due to debris on the track.

This time it was Busch’s turn to lead the field off pit road. He remained the leader until the checkered flag fell.

“Dave Rogers (crew chief) and these guys gave me a great piece today,” Busch said. “We ran up front all day long.  If it wasn’t for my pit crew, who is the most awesome crew ever – and since 2008 we’ve been together and haven’t had any changeovers.  Man, those guys were awesome.

“They pulled out one heck of a stop right there at the end to put us up front and give us that lead and to be able to bring it home.”

The long-suffering Truex Jr., who has not won a race since Dover in 2007, admitted his loss was extremely disappointing.

“Finishing second is good,” Truex said. “I’m not saying that’s not the case. It’s just when you’ve been so close to winning so many times since your last one, it really sucks to run that good and finish second. Circumstances, the way they play out sometimes, they go that way … ”

“It’s so hard to get in position to win these races. It is so hard to make your car good enough to beat Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch and all these guys; and we had that tonight. We’ve got to get better at taking advantage of that.

“That’s where we’re missing and that’s what we need to work on. So that’s why I’m upset. Second is a great accomplishment, but it’s not what we’re here for.”

Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle led the Roush Fenway Racing contingent – normally very strong at Texas, by finishing third and fourth, respectively.

After failing to pass prerace inspections NASCAR confiscated the rear end housings of the Penske Racing Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Keselowski’s team got it driver on the grid on time but Logano was late and had to start from the rear of the field.

Logano rallied to a fifth-place finish while Keselowski came home ninth.

NASCAR may impose penalties on Penske later this week.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came into the race third in points, had peculiar race at Texas.

He was in third place when he pitted on lap 188. It was thought his battery was dead and he switched to the backup battery – but had to serve a penalty for being too fast on pit road.

While serving the penalty, Earnhardt Jr. stopped on pit road – which is not allowed. He had to make a second pass and by the time it was all over, he was five laps down and no longer a contender.

He finished 29th and fell to sixth place in points, 35 behind Johnson.

Busch’s night at Texas was, obviously, much the opposite of Earnhardt Jr.’s.

It was flawless.

“It’s good, really good, Busch said. “We’ve had a good start to the season.  It feels amazing to keep this roll going.  It’s so much fun to race with this group.

“We had a talk over the winter and Dave and I had a talk a few weeks ago and things have kind of jelled. We’ve been doing really, really well.

“I’m proud of this bunch and couldn’t say enough about Joe Gibbs Racing.  Everybody back at the shop — all the guys and gals — these cars are amazing to drive, they’re fast, and they’re fun.”

And now we have the proof they can be perfect.




Kyle Busch Confident As Hectic Day For Cup Cars At Indy Moves In

Kyle Busch was the fastest driver in final practice for the Nationwide Series race, which is part of a hectic Saturday schedule at Indianapolis.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – It was kind of surreal.

On a Friday, just two days before the Brickyard 400, there wasn’t a single NASCAR Sprint Cup car on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There was no practice, no qualifying – nothing.

This was unlike anything in the past. Normally, a Friday before what is generally accepted as NASCAR’s second-most prestigious race would be a day swarming with activity.

The garage area would be teeming with crewmen scattering in every direction as they went about their tasks. Whistles would be shrilling constantly, warning everyone that a rumbling car was on it way to the track – or coming back to the garage.

But on this Friday, there was none of that.

That’s because NASCAR’s weekend schedule at the Brickyard has changed radically. The Sprint Cup race is still the highlight event on Sunday, of course, but it is now accompanied by companion events in the Grand-Am Series and the Nationwide Series.

The new schedule had practice for the Nationwide cars on Thursday and Friday was turned over completely to the Grand-Am sports cars.

Then, well, talk about a busy day – on Saturday Sprint Cup cars would have two practice sessions, followed by qualifying for the Nationwide Series, then Cup qualifying. Finally, at 4:30 p.m., the inaugural Indiana 250 Nationwide race would get the green flag.

That’s a packed schedule …

Most Cup drivers were not at the track on Friday. Those that were either had personal appearances or chose to watch the Grand-Am events.

A few, such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray, competed in the Grand-Am races.

Many more Cup drivers were active on Thursday as part of two (and only) practice sessions for the Nationwide event, which will be conducted at the Brickyard for the first time after years at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Busch is in his fifth season with Joe Gibbs Racing and hopes to be the third driver from the team, along with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, to win at Indy.

Seven of the 10 fastest cars in the final practice session were driven by Cup regulars – which should come as no surprise, given that they are far more familiar with Indy’s 2.5-mile oval.

The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, posted the two fastest speeds of the day. Kyle led the way with a speed of 175.838 mph, over a mile per hour quicker than his sibling.

“It felt good for the first time here,” Kyle said. “We’ve just been trying to make the car snug to make it better in the long run. You’ve got to be snug here because the place is so flat.

“Hopefully the car will stay with us all day Saturday.”

Speaking of Saturday, the younger Busch knows – as do all other Cup drivers – that it is going to be very hectic, which means there will be precious little time to make any needed adjustments.

“It’s going to be tight for the crews,” Kyle said. “Their time to relax for a little bit in the garage is not going to happen because they will be swapping back and forth between practice, qualifying and races. There’s a lot to do.

“It is a tight schedule. It’s a good thing I’m not a rookie and I’ve been here a few times in the Cup cars, so the limited time shouldn’t be a problem.”

Regardless of where he qualifies, Kyle will be considered a victory contender in the Nationwide race. He hasn’t won in 2012, but it’s hard to ignore the fact he has 51 series wins, including 13 in 2010.

As for the Sprint Cup circuit, Kyle is 13th in points with one victory. He is currently ranked as the No. 2, and final, candidate for a “wildcard” spot, behind Kasey Kahne.

That’s good, but it could be better.

Even though it is the Brickyard 400, Kyle, whose best finish was a fourth in 2007, maintains there is no real change in his strategy to make the Chase.

“You have to approach the races leading up to the Chase the way you have all the other races all season,” he said. “You go there and try to do the best job you can.

“You want to win on any weekend, so all through practice you try to figure out what you need in you car to make it the fastest you can.

“If the car handles and drives well, you can try a little harder to make speed out of it.”

Now in his fifth season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle hopes to join two former Gibbs drivers – Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte – as a winner at the Brickyard.

“I’m wishing I can put my name on that list by getting a win and running up front,” Kyle said. “You always want to win the big races, the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Brickyard 400, before your career is over.”

For Kyle, like it will be for every other driver, the opportunity to win at Indy will be greater if, on Saturday, total preparation is complete – and the sooner the better.




Danica, Kyle Busch: Observations On Two Key Daytona 500 Drivers

Danica Patrick has polarized fans, many of whom are her supporters but others who think she has far more marketing ability than driving talent. Patrick knows all this and deals with it.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Some observations on two drivers, each – or both – of whom could play a pivotal role in today’s Daytona 500.

To some Danica Patrick is a breath of fresh air; a catalyst to peak the nation’s interest in NASCAR and curiosity over a female competing in a predominantly male sport.

The proof, they say, is to simply look at the wealth of attention she brought to Indy Car competition before she switched to stock cars.

Others claim Patrick is nothing more than a bright, good-looking marketing magnet with more interest in promoting herself than a sport.

They add that the media has taken it upon themselves to shove Patrick down their throats – reporting on her every word and action to the point of distraction.

Some say Patrick is more smoke than substance and question her driving ability. They express the belief that if she didn’t have the wherewithal to lure sponsorship and media attention, she wouldn’t enjoy relationships with top teams in Sprint Cup and Nationwide – or the equipment they provide.

As for the fact she won the pole for Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300, well, NASCAR had the fix on.

Which is nothing but conspiracy theorists’ blather.

Patrick used her skill and JR Motorsports preparation and equipment to become the first woman to win a pole at Daytona International Speedway. Nothing more and nothing less.

It’s a mystery why some choose not to believe that. Why is it so hard to accept a unique, even historical, feel-good story when we all have done it freely, and repeatedly, in the past?

It’s because Patrick is involved. And with that comes the belief that her skills aren’t good enough to allow her such an achievement without “assistance.”

If nothing else, I hope I make this point strongly enough: Patrick does have skills. She has, and has had, the ability to drive a race car. Her peers know this.

While I’m sure that her marketing skills and sponsor dollars were part of her lure to JR Motorsports, let’s not forget the team is in the business of winning Nationwide races, among other things.

If the team thought Patrick didn’t have the ability to do just that, it wouldn’t have hired her.

Yes, Patrick is a rookie in a Sprint Cup developmental role with Stewart Haas Racing. She’s scheduled to compete in just 10 races this year.

Sure, she brought the needed dollars that helped her cause. But if Tony Stewart, who is nobody’s fool, did not believe Patrick had potential and could achieve the goals she and the team have established, he wouldn’t bother.

Yes, Patrick wrecked in a Gatorade Duel and in the Nationwide race. Neither was her fault and should be considered part of her learning curve.

I haven’t said a thing here Patrick hasn’t already heard, likely many times.

She knows exactly what is going on and the perceptions people have of her.

Unfazed, she accepts it all.

“I think that people can choose to look at what I have done and like it. Or they can look at it and choose to judge it and think it is not enough,” Patrick said. “I don’t think you are ever going to change the people that want to cheer for you and the people that don’t want to cheer for you.

“It’s funny. I did see somebody say something right after my win (in Motegi, Japan). I saw something that said ‘Oh let’s see what she does against the people in the United States.’

“I thought how funny that a casual fan didn’t know that was the Indy Car Series racing in Japan.  I just thought that was a random funny thing.

“I really think that the people that write have the ability, and there are fortunately enough to be there every weekend, to see what I do.  They can draw their own opinions.”

While Patrick knows precisely where she stands in racing, the attention she draws and all that comes with it – good and bad – it is likely she will not change.

“No, I don’t I enjoy being different,” she said. “I enjoy being unique. I enjoy it all. I really do.

“I chose to look at the positives that come with it instead of the negatives, but it is a balance. The ups are really good and the downs are sure disappointing.

“Partly because I’m used to the down part is why I feel, what’s not to like? I’m followed well and I have lots of great fans and I’m always so grateful when people write nice things about me.

“I feel good. The people that don’t like me, well, I also respect that perspective as well.”

And now for another, quick observation:

Kyle Busch is recognized for his driving skill and his bad behavior. There's no indication Busch is going to change who he is, but it's certain he knows how he's perceived.

Kyle Busch knows exactly what is going on. He gets it.

The younger Busch brother is a driver who has repeatedly displayed his considerable skill.

He has won multiple times on NASCAR’s top three national circuits, including this year’s Budweiser Shootout. Perhaps the most graphic example of his talent came in that race.

Busch kept his car under control twice when he could have easily spun and wrecked. Then he made a masterful move to pass Stewart and win the race by the closest margin in its history.

I think most fans have accepted Busch’s driving talent, even if grudgingly.

But instead of being widely admired, Busch is vilified. He is NASCAR’s “bad boy,” its spoiled, sometime immature, brat.

In a bout of anger he’s been known to take matters in his own hands and not worry about the consequences.

Which he did last year when he deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday in a truck race at Texas. NASCAR suspended Busch for the track’s Cup event. That cost him any chance at a championship.

I have said before Busch would serve himself well if he became a changed man. I don’t know if he has any intention of doing so.

But I do know he’s very aware of how he is perceived – both in talent and personality – and at least accepts and prepares for it.

“After the Shootout, there was just a lot of encouragement,” Busch said. “Things like, that it’s one of the best they’ve ever seen, it’s something that they’ve never seen – some would say that there’s few that can do it, but they know that I may be the only one that’s ever done it.  Just stuff like that.

“After the race, my phone was blowing up with over 100 text messages and 25 emails.  I had

a long next day getting back to everybody and answering everybody.

As for the other side, Busch might find it a little more difficult to swallow, but he seems ready for it.

“At races, I hear the fans a little bit,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to hear them when you don’t have your helmet on.

“I keep my helmet on when I get out of the car in case of unidentified flying objects.  I’ve learned from my past experiences.

“It’s always fun that you get to be able to get out of the car and hear the rants of the crowd, whether they be cheers or boos or applause or what have you – and get to do your victory bow.

“That’s the greatest satisfaction of winning a race.”

Yep, Kyle Busch knows exactly what’s going on.






Can The Busch Brothers Change? Yes, And Here Are Ways How


Kurt (left) and Kyle Busch have clearly established their driving talents, but both have volatile personalities that have had negative affects on their careers. It seems obvious they need to make changes, but can they? Certainly it's possible - but up to them.

Kurt and Kyle. Kyle and Kurt.

Independently they have made magic on the track and mayhem in their careers. They are volatile, boorish, immature, outrageous, and devastatingly talented. Their accomplishments on the track, however, have paled considerably to their behaviors off.

Now the elder brother Kurt is trying to rebound from his recent (mutual) dismissal from Penske with a NASCAR Sprint Cup ride with James Finch’s lesser-tier Phoenix Racing, running both Nationwide and Sprint Cup. What else does he do to find work? Hitch his talents to brother Kyle’s Nationwide team to split the season.

Many see this move as incredibly stupid, citing the brothers’ inability to play nice with others, including one another. They say the union will self-destruct and no good will come from the pairing.

I disagree. Family may be exactly what these boys need to repair their images, get back on track and start winning the war of public opinion.

I remember clearly a time when Kurt was the only Busch brother driving in NASCAR. When being interviewed about his talents Kurt smiled slyly and said, “If you think I’m good, wait until you see my brother.”

This foreshadowing showed an older brother’s respect for his younger sibling and a bond that only family produces.

Once Kyle earned a ride in Cup, I distinctly recall him winning in his native Las Vegas in 2009.

It charmed me to see brother Kurt and their mother join Kyle in Victory Lane. Family, so much a part of NASCAR and which is so appealing to me, was strongly present and, obviously, important to the brothers Busch.

I am a staunch believer that all people can change. Kurt and Kyle have worn their snottiness and intolerance as badges – if not the armor they wear into battle.

I hoped that after Kurt lost his ride at Roush and Kyle his at Hendrick, the two would mature a little bit.

And, at first, it seemed they tried. Once Kyle got married to the former Samantha Sarcinella I was certain he’d make a strong run for the championship in 2011. Alas, I was wrong. But I am not closing the door to the idea that both of these men can change for the better.

Dale Earnhardt once told a young Jeff Gordon, “At least they’re making noise. It’s when they stop making noise that you know something’s wrong.”

Kurt and Kyle still garner huge attention, passionate responses from the crowd and are polarizing. But Penske could no longer stomach the elder Busch’s tirades and lack of control. Finch has already said that if Kurt had behaved with him the way he did with Penske, “He would have gotten his ass beat on pit road.”

It was just a matter of time before Joe Gibbs would be forced to let Kyle go if his judgment didn’t improve. I have to believe that such facts will alter the drivers’ behavior.

A new girlfriend for Kurt and a savvy wife for Kyle may be what soothe the savage beasts that reside within the brothers Busch.

I’m hoping that for their sake, and for that of NASCAR fans as well, the Busch brothers can harness their ambition, talent, brattiness and rage and do what they truly do best – win races.

Perhaps a back-to-basics season for the two drivers will refocus and re-energize their efforts. Perhaps Kurt can parlay this season into a Chase contention and Kyle can, finally, make a decent run at the championship.

Leffler to Busch, Courtney to Force, Hinchcliffe to Andretti, Senna to Williams?

Jason Leffler, Courtney Force, James Hinchcliffe and Bruno Senna are all on the move. Leffler goes to Kyle Busch’s truck team while Courtney Force debuts for Father John Force. Not to be outdone James Hinchcliffe get’s the big break taking the Go Daddy/Andretti seat in IndyCar and in Formula One, Bruno Senna’s backer, Eike Batista insists that the deal is done for Senna’s seat at Williams.

It Could’ve Been Better For Kyle Busch But He Offers No Excuses Or Regrets


Kyle Busch is presented the Goodyear Gatorback Award for leading the most laps in each race more than any other driver in 2011. Unfortunately, Busch, ranked No. 12 in the final standings, won't be there when NASCAR honors champion Tony Stewart on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, will not be on the stage tonight when NASCAR stages its annual ceremony to honor 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Only the drivers who finished among the top 10 in the final point standings will be on hand to receive recognition – and the monetary awards that come with it.

Kyle wound up 12th in points; his older brother 11th.

It seems a shame the two will not be at the festivities conducted at the Wynn Hotel on Vegas’ celebrated Strip. After all, the town called ‘Sin City’ is their home.

Now, it would come as no surprise if both of them decided to ignore the event, given they are intense competitors and seemingly wouldn’t care much to see glory heaped on others.

But as far as Kyle is concerned, that won’t be so.

“Yeah, I’m going to watch,” the younger Busch said. “To have Champions Week on home turf is nice.

It seems there’s a lot positive about it.

“Having it in Vegas, it seems there is a lot more areas for drivers to play, if you will, and spend some good times, whether they make money or lose money.

“We like it here, not just Kurt and I, but I think most of the guys think it’s a good place for it.”

It was widely anticipated that Kyle would indeed be a part of the celebration and, perhaps, even the driver honored as the 2011 champion.

He was No. 1 in the point standings when the 10-race Chase began after the 26th race of the year at Richmond. He had already won four races, strengthening his reputation as the driver whose ability to win on NASCAR’s top three national tours – which includes Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – is unparalleled.

But what has plagued him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team in the past reared its ugly head again. Busch’s performances in the last 10 races of the season were, by his standards, sub-par.

“All in all, there were certainly some highs and lows during the year,” Busch said. “And not having the right final 10 races hit us again.

“It seems like we just can’t figure out the Chase thing. But, it was what it was, and we’ll move on to 2012.”

“It was what it was” included an incident that effectively removed all hopes the younger Busch had of winning a title – and, for that matter, finishing among the top 10.

At Texas Motor Speedway, site of the eighth of 10 Chase races, Busch planned to run in three events – in truck, Nationwide and Cup.

In the truck race an angered Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday. The response from NASCAR was harsh.

He was not permitted to drive in either remaining event in Nationwide or Cup.

Naturally, his absence in the Cup event cost him an unrecoverable amount of valuable points and, obviously, removed him from championship contention. He fell to the rear of the point standings.

Busch did apologize for his actions at Texas. Beyond that, logic dictates that one of his regrets was they ultimately took him off the stage in Vegas when it could have been otherwise.

But when asked if he had a singular regret; any one thing he wish had happened or he had done differently, Busch was candid, direct and honest with his answer:

“Nope, nope, nope.”

Maybe he won’t be part of the ultimate celebration, but Busch got to enjoy time in Champions Week as one of the honorees at the annual National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award luncheon, which incorporates the presentation of all the season’s contingency awards, given to the drivers who have earned them.

One of the awards is the Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award, given to the driver who, over the season, most often established the fastest lap in each race.

The younger Busch was the winner and got his share of the more than $1 million in contingency loot.

“Yeah, the Goodyear Gatorback Award was pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t know that we had won anything so I was kinda surprised when I had to go up there and accept it.

“I was trying to think of something to say. But in the end, to come out here and be a part of NASCAR’s Champions Week is fun. We’ve had a great time.”

Busch might have an even greater time when Champions Week rolls around at the end of the 2012 season.

There are more than a few who feel that it’s likely to happen if, somehow, he manages to keep his temper in check.

But what is certainly needed is for he and his team to keep the high level of performance they have clearly displayed over the first 26 races of each season intact over the final 10.

Busch apparently agreed when asked to grade his team for 2011.

“It’s hard to grade on your own,” he said, “because we always grade low because we feel, no matter how we did, that we did not meet our expectations

“But I’d say our No. 18 team, with all the accomplishments we’ve had this year, certainly through the first 26 races, we were an ‘A’ or an ‘A-plus.’

“Over the last 10 races, we were a ‘D.’

“You just have to keep working at it. You have to get better as a team and make the circumstances better.”

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