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Kyle Busch: 90 NASCAR touring victories? Wow! The kid is pretty darned good

  A great day for racing....another great day for racing in a spring of good weather for NASCAR. But the Bristol crowd could have been better. Maybe if hotels stopped gouging fans the stands would be packed again. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


Kyle Busch just makes it look so darned easy.
   Early in the season at least.
   Now if he can just figure out the playoffs.

   Jimmie Johnson had things pretty much in hand most of the second half of the three-hour Jeff Byrd 500 here. But on the last round of pit stops, Johnson opened the door with a slight bobble, when one of his rear crewmen slipped, and Busch took that to the bank.
   The win was Busch's 90th in NASCAR's three national touring series, pretty amazing.
    "We played it patient at times, we played it aggressive at times," Busch said.
   "And it was a great pit stop that last time. That gave me the lane I wanted for the restart."
   The outside lane.
    Carl Edwards, the hottest driver in the sport for several months now, was side by side with Busch for the final restarts with about 50 laps to go, just ahead of Johnson. And Edwards tried to press the issue with Busch, but couldn't quite make something happen.
   Busch was braced for the old Bristol bump-and-run.
   "Carl tried to make it interesting…but I kept it straight," Busch said.
   "I thought it was going to be a little reminiscent of 2008 – he gave me a little shot getting into turn one. But we gathered it up and drove through that."
   "I thought I could get to him at the end and rough him up a little bit and maybe get by him," Edwards said. "But his car took off. 
    "I should have hit him harder when I got to his bumper the first time….
   "The last two restarts I had to lift out of the gas (rather than hit Busch). I got a pretty good jump on him; I figured out what he was doing. But he does a really good start on restarts.
   "The outside lane (which Busch had) you have a little more hill to come down from, so you have a little advantage on the outside."
   Was Busch expecting more fireworks from Edwards, considering their history, particularly that run-in at Phoenix three weeks ago? "No, not really…I was just trying to get away from him," Busch said.
   "It didn't happen. You just get back on the horse and ride it home."
   What is this thing between Busch and Edwards? "I have no idea where I'm 'owed' one from, you'll have to ask Carl," Busch said.
   Edwards keeps playing up this rivalry, and Busch keeps playing it down.

   Older brother Kurt Busch was in the hunt most of the afternoon, but it was a struggle, and he faded to seventh at the end. Still that's good enough to take the Sprint Cup tour points lead out to California's Auto Club Speedway this week.
    That's four straight top-10s for Kurt Busch, who took the lead away from Tony Stewart, who had an off day.
    Edwards is only one point in the standings behind four races into the season.
    A number of top drivers aren't having as good a spring. Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are all struggling. In fact Gordon's poor run was striking; he was never a contender.
   And while the frontrunners aren't boasting of the points spread, the guys down are really getting worried.

   Goodyear's tire change Saturday morning threw everyone a curve. No one really seemed happy with the car at the start of the race. "The way the car drove the first 250 laps wasn't really in the direction we thought it was going to be," Greg Biffle said. "That threw us a curveball."
   But teams adjusted well generally, and the new tires weren't really a factor, except for unexpected handling characteristics.
   Busch, who may not be the most popular driver on the stock car tour, though doing the best he can to woo fans over, led 153 of the 500 laps; Johnson, 164.
    Carl Edwards, though starting from the pole, faded early and only came back into contention in the final miles.
   "The last couple of restarts….well, with 70 to go, I could get away from Carl. But then every time we had a long caution, my car would get loose," Busch said.
   "But after a few laps I could start edging away. When he got up beside me, fortunately he didn't get by me. And two cars that fast at the end of a race here, you have to try to break the other guy's momentum."

    Kevin Harvick (29) and teammate Clint Bowyer (33) had a ragged Sunday (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Johnson said he was a big surprised to see Edwards in the thick of it late: "Kyle and I didn't see much of Carl all day."
   As wide and smooth as this track is, and as easy as drivers seem to say it drives, it was surprising that Johnson couldn't mount a comeback after that bad pit stop late.
   "Oddly enough clean air is important here, and it makes a big difference," Johnson says. "Whoever had clean air could get a little gap, and that was it.
   "Kyle knows how to control the restarts, he knows how to take advantage of a clean race track. So he really had control from that point on….and it was the rest of us racing for second, third and fourth."
   Harvick had fought into contention late but he got tagged by Mark Martin in some traffic, and he wasn't pleased with the spinout, saying it was the second time in four races that Martin had made a mistake like that.

   Goodyear's substitute right-sides were the same type tires used here last summer. However some of the tires Goodyear brought in here Saturday were fresher than others. And drivers said they could tell the difference.
    Matt Kenseth, who rallied to finish fourth, said of the tire swap: "It wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  We got to use the same date code the whole day.  They changed that right before the race, and I think that made a big difference. All of my tires were really consistent, and we didn't have any issues."
   "We  didn't see any tire issues, no blown tires," Kyle Busch said. "But there was the 'basketball' effect, where it feels like you're running on basketballs."
   Perhaps the big story of the day: "Unfortunately we didn't see a packed house," Busch said. "And that's disappointing."
   Is that a factor of the different style of racing here, now that the track has been smoothed and widened, or is it more a factor of stunningly high hotel rates?
   "This isn't the old Bristol. Now you've got more room to race, and you can give more room to race," Busch says.
   "So I guess there's less drama. And I like less drama, because there's less for me to deal with."



  Kyle Busch had a great Sunday at Bristol, but teammate Denny Hamlin (11) had another rocky afternoon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




Mike just wondering what you thought the actual attendance was. On TV it looked dismal.

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