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Can anybody beat Kyle Busch when he's right on his game?


General Kyle Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Looks like the only way to beat Kyle Busch is to hope Kyle Busch beats himself.
   Of course that's just what's he done the past few weeks, until Saturday's kicking win in the Richmond 400. And that's what he did early last fall in the opening weeks of the championship chase, taking himself out of contention after dominating NASCAR's regular season.
   But when Kyle Busch and crew chief Steve Addington are right on, they are all but unbeatable…unless a rival punts them out of the game.
    "The past four weeks have been struggles for us," Busch says. "We haven't finished, I don't think, in the top-17.
    "It's been a rough spell for us."
    Yet now, it should be pointed out that Kyle Busch has won three of the year's first 10 races…a pace that could make this a 10-win season if he can keep it up.
   "We were looking to come back here to Richmond and get back on track -- just run a solid race and finish in the top-10, and hopefully the top-five and have a chance to win the thing. 
    "Fortunately we were able to do that. 


Kyle Busch salutes the crowd of 100,000 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


"Jeff and I last week flying home from Talladega, we were dumbfounded that we hadn't been able to finish lately. We were just not able to close out the deal and get the finishes we need.
    "Fortunately this is good. 
    "And it started Thursday  -- we had a lot of fun over there for the Denny Hamlin (Late Model) race.  Raised a lot of money for the Hamlin Foundation, which is great.
    "That set the tone for the weekend."
    Then Busch followed with a Friday night Nationwide win.
    And Saturday's Cup victory was his 50th in one on NASCAR's three national touring series.
    Now he's looking for a new record – 200 wins.
    "It could happen, if I can keep this pace up," he says, referring to 200 NASCAR wins in Truck, Nationwide and Cup, not just Cup.
    "But I know the older I get I'll start slowing down some way.
     "Still, hopefully I can achieve that goal.  It would be sure nice to get that. 
    "I know it's not 200 Cup victories like Richard Petty has.
    "But it would still be a phenomenal mark for me. 
     "I don't know how long I'll be in the Truck series or Nationwide series…but hopefully for as long as Joe (Gibbs, the car owner) will let me."

Crown Royal contest winner Russ Friedman poses in front of the logo for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series 'CROWN ROYAL presents The Russ Friedman 400' at Richmond International Raceway. Friedman earned naming rights by chronicling his efforts receiving two Purple Hearts serving in Iraq in the Marine Corps.
(Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

All in all, Kyle Busch has developed into a remarkable talent since leaving Rick Hendrick for Gibbs.
   And Gibbs not only has a strong three-driver cast, but all three are quite young: 18, 24 and 27.
   "I don't think you can say anybody programs to go with younger guys," Gibbs concedes. "As a matter of fact, right now, with no testing, we're seeing it with Joey -- that's extremely tough to overcome. 
    "That's the reason I was thanking Kyle (for helping rookie teammate Joey Logano). 
    "We were thrilled when we got a chance to get Kyle.
    "And Denny Hamlin, the way that took place, that's one of the great stories in sports.  He was Late Model racing about a year before we put him in the Cup car. 
    "Then to have Joey…."
   Logano was a Jack Roush project that somehow got away.
    But the way Gibbs has put together his current driver roster makes him look brilliant.
    "You're on the outlook for somebody that you think is really special…. But it's hard to find, because there's very few people are gifted that can drive these things," Gibbs says. 
   Busch himself says he just hopes this last four-week run of bad luck will translate into a few extra weeks of good luck in the chase.
   "I'm hoping the past four weeks of us running badly is going to pay us back in the chase," Busch says.
   "Hopefully we gave up enough races now that the chase will go well….Last year we didn't give up any in the beginning of the year, and we had to give them all up at the end.
    "There's a point where sometimes it just doesn't all go your way.  There's a season where everybody has had issues: beginning, middle, or end. 
    "I'm hoping I'm right on that. 
    "We'll have to let time tell, and let it all play out.
    "It wasn't not winning that made us so down, it was just not finishing.
    "At Texas we didn't start the race that great. Then I made a dumb call, got into it with another car, cut my own tire, and had to fight for two laps back.  Finally got it back at the end of the race, but too late to make anything out of it.
   "At Phoenix we ran well, probably could have won…but I sped off pit road.  That was just a killer.
    "Talladega is a crapshoot anyway.  You never know what's going to happen.  I'm just glad I wasn't the one in the guardrail.
    "Here it was just meant to be."
    Busch's race day secret: "Sometimes I just need to go find La La Land  -- I need to go out there, put my mind to nothing.
    "The more I don't think about what I'm doing, just think about whatever, it seems to come to me a lot easier than trying to focus too much on hitting your marks and this and that.
   "When my spotter starts talking, you tell him to shut up, and you start talking about In-N-Out Burger or something."
   Seems to work pretty good.

Bad night for Hendrick's guys. Jimmie Johnson spinning (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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