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Pedley: Busch Will Stumble All The Way To Title

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 24 2011

Kyle Busch checks in with reigning champion Jimmie Johnson last weekend in the garages at Michigan. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Maturity is a character trait the visibility of which comes and goes. For virtually all people, you know? People who act extremely mature and responsible over their Cobb salad at lunch can be seen jamming french fries up their nose at dinner.

True, age does tend to decrease the frequency of fry-jammings, but it does not eliminate them all together.

With that truism in mind, it has been with a rubbing of the eyes and a softly muttered “Oh brother” that stories about Kyle Busch’s maturity have been greeted here this NASCAR season. Seems like every other week somebody somewhere has proclaimed that Busch has acted like this or like that in regards to maturity.

The way it appears to me is what Busch has acted like this season is a human being. One who is 26 years old and has lots of money. Sensitive and thoughtful one weekend, adolescently unthinking the next.

But right now, it also appears Busch has gotten to the point on the maturity scale that will allow him to win his first Sprint Cup championship. Evidence from the last couple of weeks, at least, would seem to support that.

Interestingly, the focal point of that observation came after he lost a race that he quite easily could have won – the road race at Watkins Glen.

Busch was at the front of the field on the final restart – that is, he was in a situation where he is at his

Kyle Busch overcame Watkins Glen to win at Michigan. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

absolute best.

But heading into Turn1, he screwed up and blew through the turn. Nobody bumped him, nobody hooked him, nobody nothin’ed him. Busch just screwed up and that cost him a victory.

Who says? Busch.

“Just knew exactly what not to do and did it anyway,” he would say. “Just got in there and didn’t think I got in there too fast, but the car just didn’t slow down the way I needed it to and then it didn’t turn the way I needed it to.  Saw sprinkles on the windshield, but everybody else made it fine through there. I just screwed up.”

Busch’s second reaction to the screw-up was even more telling that that when it comes to his “increased maturity”.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, the guy who won his 100th NASCAR race a couple of weeks ago, pulled himself together enough to win last Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

In the past, he may have needed a couple more days or weeks of self-defeating, self-flagellation before being able to pull himself back together enough to get back to winning form.

Who says? Dave Rogers, his crew chief.

“Kyle Busch is the most competitive guy I’ve ever worked with,” Rogers said after the MIS victory. “He beat himself more than he should have last week.  A better car won.  We had the 9 (Marcos Ambrose, who won the race) beat on pit strategy, but he was the better car, but Kyle still took it personal so this is good vindication for Kyle.”

Busch has now reached the point where he will be able to overcome the competitive and emotional letdowns which will inevitably still plague his career. And the result – perhaps as early as this November – will be a Cup championship.

Who says? Five-time Sprint Cup champion and former teammate Jimmie Johnson.

“We all have that anger inside of us,” Johnson said after losing to Busch at Michigan. “Some have been able to have a filter, wait ‘til they get home, maybe kick the dog or something instead of doing it at the track.

“I’ve worked with Kyle as a teammate in the past.  I understand his passion for racing.  I certainly know that he’s not afraid to stand on the gas and can really drive the car to its potential week in and week out.

“I said this about him a while ago:  Once he figured out how to win races, he’d win a lot.  He certainly has done that.  His big test is for a championship.  Once he understands that and figures that out, I think he’ll win a lot of those, too.

“He’s got a lot of talent.  When I think about his age, I didn’t come into the sport till I was 25, 26 was my rookie year.  At the time I thought that opportunity had passed me by and I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get a shot.  But looking back, I’m very thankful getting my late start.  It helped me mature in a lot of ways.  I made my mistakes more on the lower levels instead of in the spotlight with the pressure of the Cup Series.

“He’s getting into that in his mid 20s now.  So he’s getting into his sweet spot, I think.”

Give a lot of credit for the increased maturity to getting married.

Who says? His boss, J.D. Gibbs:

“He just got married this winter,” Gibbs said. “That was it. I said, ‘You should have got married two years ago.’ ”

But, then again, there he was Tuesday, standing in court room in North Carolina have his driver’s license taken away because he was going 128 mph on a back road where the speed limit was 45.

That is, there he was again Tuesday with french fries stuck up his nose.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 24 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Ted Cash says:

    Kyle Bush has many fans out here. Me being one of his biggest. He can drive a race car, and for anyone who can’t see or figure that out , might want to take up spelling with Ike Clanton.

  • Dave says:

    Hey Jim What’s it like sitting up there all alone on that perfect cloud. Made any mistakes lately or in your lifetime that could change your life. I know I have. It’s reporters like you that won’t let sleeping dogs lie. But I guess we all need our jobs.