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Kyle Busch Happy With ‘09, Excited about ‘10

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 10 2009
Kyle Busch celebrated his Nationwide championship by helping others on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Nationwide Series)

Kyle Busch celebrated his Nationwide championship by helping others on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Nationwide Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The most misunderstood driver in NASCAR said Tuesday that nobody should misunderstand this: The 2009 racing season will not be filed away in his personal memory bank under the heading of “Disappointing”.

On the contrary, Kyle Busch said, he’s inserting 2009 into the brain file marked “Great”.

“A lot of successes,” Busch said during a telephone call from Ohio, where he was being honored for his biggest success of ’09, the Nationwide Series championship.

Busch expects to pile up more successes in 2010, probably with an expanded role as owner/driver in the Camping World Truck Series as he has scheduled an announcement on that for Friday.

“It could be as few as one (truck fielded by the team) and as many as three, so we’ll see,” Busch said of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ 2010 plans for the trucks.

As for 2009, many had expected more successes from Busch, the 24-year-old whom many believe is the best wheelman in North America. They expected a minimum result of a Chase berth. And the maximum? Many expected Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team to step between Jimmie Johnson and his bid for a fourth-straight Sprint Cup championship.

The basis for those expectations was, of course, Busch’s incredible 2008 season – the season in which he redefined excellence in NASCAR by winning 21 races (eight in Cup) across the sport’s three top series.

When the sun came up above the Atlantic on race day at Daytona last February, the grandstands and garages began filling with people who thought the year of the younger Busch brother was at hand.

When Busch failed to make the Chase and, hence, was shut out of championship contention with 10 weeks to go in the season, the belief among the masses was that 2009 was a bummer for Busch.

But the masses, once again, failed to understand Kyle Busch.

Taking a break from stuffing boxes for the disadvantaged at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank on Tuesday, Busch counted his own old-year blessings.

“I think it was a great year, overall,” he said. “I won five races in a row to tie (Ron) Hornaday in the truck series. In the Nationwide Series, I won nine races and won the championship there, I had a lot of records set in the year.

“I won, I think, 24 or 25 races across the three NASCAR series and, of course, my Late Model racing and doing some things there as well. I feel like it was a successful year.”

The latest of his victories came last weekend in the Snowball Derby for Super Late Models in Pensacola, Fla.

“The Snowball was really fun. I love going down there and this year was my opportunity to go down there with my own car and spend the whole week down there and set up my own car and equipment,” Busch said. “I got it to where I wanted it for Sunday and we made it through the room of doom and everything.”

And Cup ’09? Busch said that while his failure to make the Chase and position himself to make a run for the Big One did not poison his season, yes, it did skim off some of the shine.

“The Cup side was frustrating at times and we won four races but we missed the Chase and struggled a bit,” he said.

But…

“I feel we got things rolling a little bit better and in the right direction toward the last eight races or so. And having Dave Rogers come on board (as crew chief) for the final three was another step toward working in that right direction for next year and getting things going there.”

Ah, next year. The big picture is still being worked on by Busch. Of course he will run the full Cup schedule. After that, things are still not settled.

He said it looks like, as of right now, a full season in Nationwide is not in the plan. But, the plan is flexible, he said.

“We’re just looking at running 25 to 27 (of 35 races on the schedule), something like that,” Busch said. “But it can all change. It depends on how the beginning of the season goes. If we go and win some at the beginning of the year and are second or have a good points lead or something, maybe I’ll carry it through and make another run at the championship.

“I’ve heard Brad Keselowski is returning, Carl Edwards is returning, I’ve heard Kevin Harvick’s coming back so it might be a good full field of drivers to chase for the championship. Of course you have your full field of regulars with Jason Leffler, (Justin) Allgaier and (Brendan) Gaughan and Steven Wallace and those guys. It’s never easy this deal.

“If the urge gets there, we might talk to some people and get the schedule filled out but right now we got 25 races that are fully funded and we’ll see how it plays out from there.”

His plans for the Camping World Trucks Series are scheduled to be announced on Friday. The word is, Kyle Busch Motorsports will field three trucks for the series in 2010.

“Well,” he said when asked about that, “that’s the rumor anyway. But I’m not quite sure yet. We’ve got an announcement coming up.”

Also to be seen is the inclusion of top-tier, championship-winning crew chief Rick Ren into the plan.

“I have had a few discussions with him,” Busch said. “Him working over at Kevin Harvick Inc. was a hard situation to get him from with the success he had with Ron Hornaday so, we will have to see what happens until Friday.”

One thing which won’t wait until Friday is the excitement about 2010. New-ish crew chief, teammate in Denny Hamlin who also finished the season well and a feeling in the JGR shops that big things are about to happen.

“We started clicking again,” Busch said. “Real happy with the way it (’09) ended. We’ve been using a lot of Denny’s setups, he’s been using a lot of our setups and it seems like it’s been helping the both of us. We should have finished first and second at Homestead (in the season finale) but I was trying a little too hard for the win and got into the wall just a bit and took myself out of a second-place finish and got and eighth instead.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 10 2009
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