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Blue Deuce Could Be Wild Card In The Chase

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 24 2010
Kurt Busch and the 'Blue Deuce' hoping to give Roger Penske a championship this season. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Busch)

Kurt Busch and the 'Blue Deuce' are hoping to give Roger Penske a championship this season. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

When Kyle Busch was still a raw teenager getting his feet wet in NASCAR, older brother Kurt was already a stock car star.

But Kurt was quick to warn anybody who would listen that his kid brother was the real deal.

“If you think I’m pretty good, wait until you see Kyle,’’ he was fond of saying.

Kurt was right. The kid, now a rather experienced 25-year-old, is one of the big names of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series, with almost unlimited potential and driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the strongest teams in the sport.

In a lot of ways, the youngster has eclipsed his 31-year-old brother, even though Kurt has the family’s only Cup title (2004) and leads the brotherly competition in Cup wins, 20-16.

The younger Busch, still learning his trade, has also been a force in NASCAR’s other two professional series, winning the Nationwide Series title last season and already the proud possessor of 31 race wins in the second-tier series and 16 more in trucks.

So it’s no surprise that Kurt has become the “other’’ brother in the minds of many fans.

But don’t feel sorry for him.

The elder Busch, who finished fourth in the Cup points last season – trailing only the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon – is hoping to give team owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR championship this season.

Despite that finish, Kurt has started the season under the radar.

While everyone expects Johnson and his teammates to battle for the title, along with JGR’s Denny Hamlin, hardly anyone mentions Kurt Busch and championship in the same breath.

Two good reasons for that: Penske Racing could be at a disadvantage this year as the only Dodge team in Cup and Busch is starting the year with a brand new crew chief – Steve Addington, who previously worked with his brother.

But none of that bothers Kurt Busch, who could hardly wait for the 2010 season to begin.

“The Blue Deuce (his No. 2 Dodge) is going to be competitive,’’ Busch said in the weeks leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500. “The first thing we have to do is make the Chase (for the Cup championship). But nobody should be surprised if we make a run at the championship.’’

Busch led 33 laps at Daytona before a late pit stop relegated him to a 23rd-place finish. Last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, he stepped it up to a sixth-place run and now stands 11th in the points heading home to Las Vegas.

Busch, who grew up in Sin City, would love to match his brother’s 2009 Cup victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I know just how much last year’s win meant to Kyle and it was a thrill to be part of such a huge hometown win like that,’’ Addington said. “We’re on a mission to get Kurt a big winner’s trophy of his own in Vegas this weekend. I know how special a Las Vegas win would be for Kurt and it would be a great accomplishment if we can pull it off.

“One of the biggest things I remember about winning last year’s Vegas race was seeing Kurt come into Victory Lane, congratulate his little brother and give him a big hug,” Addington added.  “Their mom (Gaye) was our team scorer for the 18 car and she was right there soaking the scene all in with her two sons. It was a memorable occasion, that’s for sure.’’

The memories of that day are vivid for Kurt as well.

“It was a special win at a very special place for our family, so I made a mad dash over through the Neon Garage and into Victory Lane to congratulate my little brother,” the elder Busch noted.  “I’ve always dreamed about winning the race there at our home track and we had a strong car there last year until we had the engine problem.  But as everyone knows, you have to be there at the end.  Kyle drove a great race and saved the best for last.  I wanted to let him know how proud of him that I was, so that’s why I hustled on down there like I did.

“Little did I know only a year ago that the guy who helped Kyle win the Vegas race would be our team leader coming back into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this time around,” Busch said.  “It’s really easy to get pumped up.’’

Busch will drive Dodge chassis 702 in this week’s race, something he considers an omen of good things to come.

“We’re taking the (2009 fall) Texas race-winner, the 702 car, into Vegas, which everybody knows is the 702 area code,’’ he said. “All the good things seem to be lining up for this weekend.  It’s a true confidence builder to head back into Vegas knowing that you have a guy calling the shots for us who won the thing there last year.’’

A win this early in the season would be a big boost for Busch, who has never finished better than third in nine Cup races at Las Vegas. That doesn’t worry the veteran driver, though.

“It’s home,’’ he said. “We feel comfortable there. We just have to go out and finish the job this time.’’

If Kurt does that, Kyle will  just have to share the spotlight for at least a while longer.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 24 2010
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