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Minter: Busch’s Bedevilment Is In The Details

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 10 2009
Kyle Busch needs a big finish this weekend in Richmond. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch needs a big finish this weekend in Richmond. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Some Thursday observations:

Whenever there’s an issue that doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s always a good idea to check the facts, specifically the statistics involved.

For those wondering how a  four-time Sprint Cup winner this season could be on the outside looking in a the circuit heads to the final regular season race at Richmond on Saturday, a quick look at the stat sheet says it all.

After 25 races, Kyle Busch is tied with Mark Martin for most Sprint Cup wins with four, but there are 37 points standing between Busch, in 14th place, from a berth among the top 12 who will participate in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The main reason Busch is not a lock for a Chase berth is that his win total doesn’t tell the full story about his overall performance. When Busch is not winning, he’s just so-so or worse. Other than his wins, he’s had just two other top-five finishes and four more top-10s.

His average finish is 16.7, and he’s had 10 finishes of 20th or worse.

Busch said as much on this week’s teleconference.

“It’s not going to be Richmond that keeps us out; it’s going to be the rest of the year that we’ve had our struggles that’s going to be what kept us from being in the Chase,” he said.

But it may be too soon to write him off. He won at Richmond earlier this year.

* In a time when drivers like Carl Edwards race with a broken foot and Jeff Gordon runs every week despite nagging back issues, it’s kind of refreshing to see a Cup regular voluntarily take a week off to pursue some other passion.

Robby Gordon announced last week that he was skipping this weekend’s Cup race at Richmond to run an off- road race in Baja.

Gordon has always had a love affair with off-road racing, and even last week he worked an off-road event into his schedule, then flew to Atlanta with little sleep and drove his No.7 Toyota to a respectable 16th-place finish. And all that was after a violent crash in his Hummer while testing in the desert in Arizona.

And while Gordon will miss the Cup race, he left the Prelude to the Dream at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway on his schedule.

Then it’s on to the SCORE Terrible’s Primm 300, the fourth of five events in the 2009 SCORE International Off-Road Racing Trophy Truck Season. Oh by the way, Gordon enters the event atop the points standings.

* Kevin Harvick’s dominating win in last week’s Nationwide Series race at Atlanta was bound to happen sooner or later. Drivers and car owners can only stand defeat so long before they do whatever it takes to get back to Victory Lane.

Joe Gibbs Racing has been dominating NASCAR’s No. 2 circuit, but racers don’t like being outrun on a regular basis, especially one like Harvick who is also the car owner.

Harvick said after his win that it had cost him plenty to catch the Gibbs Toyotas. His crew cut the body off his Chevy, replacing it with a better one, and countless hours were spent in the search for the little things that add up to a lot of speed.

It was evident. He was the class of the field, leading 131 of 195 laps and overcoming Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s gas mileage gamble by making a pit stop then running him down and passing him with two laps to go.

* Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark took a big gamble giving up a Chase race to get a Labor Day weekend date, but it paid off in a big way as he nearly got a sell-out at a track that had developed a reputation as being attendance-challenged.

And he wound up with a great race to boot, lots of green-flag lead changes and a great finish to end the night. The buzz about the AMS race continued well into midweek, sharing the spotlight with the run-up to the regular season finale on Saturday at Richmond.

Now it’s Clark’s fellow promoters who have the heat on them, if fans and the media begin comparing races – and attendance – at other intermediate tracks to Clark’s place.

It’s nice to see one of racing’s really nice guys – and one of its great old original tracks – on top for a change.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 10 2009
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