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Rowdy, Rowdy, where's Rowdy?

  Kyle Busch: Brilliant at Daytona, dominant for a long stretch in Los Angeles, but really not that much so far otherwise. Wonder what's up? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern



   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Hey, where's Rowdy?
   Uh, has anybody heard from Kyle Busch lately?
   Time for an APB?

   When last seen, he was making daring-do at Daytona, in the Shootout, and leading, without much resistance, on that rainy Sunday at California.
   Since then he's been all but invisible.
   And Carl Edwards….well, is this some malaise? He was crackerjack last season, but this year he still has yet to lead a single lap.
   But then, even though it is still rather early in the year, a number of drivers have question marks circling around them:
   Aric Almirola
   AJ Allmendinger
   Marcos Ambrose.

   And the surprises, the men filling the void?
   Michael Waltrip's revitalized roster of Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr.
   Martin, third at Texas, and Truex, sixth,
   Here Bowyer, a Kansas boy, wants to shine.
   Bowyer, from Emporia, left Richard Childress after six years to join Waltrip this season.
   And the Waltrip operation has been solid, clearly a credit to new competition director Scott Miller, also just over from the Childress camp.
   "Am I surprised?  No," Bowyer says. "Proud -- Yes. 
    "It sure makes you feel so much better about making the decision you've made… and all the naysayers, people that looked at you and thought 'What
the hell are you doing?', it sure makes you feel a lot better about that.
    "We're just beginning. The whole organization has been a breath of fresh air, and a lot of fun so far.
    "I'm satisfied…at least for now…because I see we've had opportunities to battle through adversity and we've made good decisions. That's what it takes to succeed at this level – It's not who can take a good day and run good with it, it's who can have some struggles throughout the day and make the right decisions.
   "We've done a good job of that."


Clint Bowyer (R) and Brian Pattie (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie will  be rushing from the track Friday to throw out the first pitch for the Kansas City Royals' game with the Toronto Blue Jays.
    Bowyer in February was here to throw out the ceremonial first dice at the craps table at the just-finished Hollywood Casino, which overlooks the track's second turn.
   Martin, just moving over from Rick Hendrick's Chevy camp, has been solid, even more than that with last Saturday night's third at Texas.
    "There's nothing else I find quite as much fun as going to work with a great race team, with a great attitude," Martin said in the Texas afterglow.
    "We're still trying to improve on our long-haul, getting a little easier on the tires so the thing will stay faster (longer).  If we can make any more improvement, maybe we can get right up there and make some sparks for those guys.
     "Kansas is a great place.  It's almost like a home track because I raced so much up in Springfield (in nearby Missouri) and I-70 Speedway."

     Truex himself, though, seems almost angry that he hasn't won yet this season, particularly after starting from the pole at Texas.



Dave Rogers, Kyle Busch's crew chief: is it the iron or the driver? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Meanwhile over on the other side of the NASCAR ledger:
    The Busch brothers, still not really up to speed.
    And this doesn't promise to be much of a place for a Kyle Busch turnaround. In his nine Cup races here, he's averaging a painful 21.1 finish, with a career-best seventh some six years ago.
    "We need to be better," Kyle Busch says.
   Indeed for a driver as talented, all the way around, as this guy, his lack of great runs here is curious.
    "It's not that you might not like a track, it's just a matter of trying to figure it out," he says. "Once you get it figured out, you can have a shot.
    "I look at this place a lot like Michigan, a place where I struggled for a long time…but we finally were able to break through for a win last year.
    "Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they are going to repave it."

    And this track is in for more than just a repave – a full redesign, which should make the Oct. 21st playoff race here more than just another race.
    The banking will be raised from the current 15 degrees in the turns to a variable banked track up to 20 degrees in the corners.

   Of course having a fast, good-handling car may not be the winning ticket here Sunday. Three of the last four races have come down to gas mileage.
   Virtually no yellows turned last weekend's Texas 500 into a dud of a race, in a season that has featured little great drama, aside from Kyle's theatrics at Daytona.
    Fuel? "When you're trying to conserve fuel, it's pretty much all luck," Kyle Busch says.
    "You try to roll out of the gas early and be smooth getting back to it. You'll probably save a drop here or there, but nothing that's going to make a big difference.
    "Four times in my career I've tried…but I didn't make it on three of them.
    "If you're short by three laps with 60 laps to go (here), and you go green the rest of the way, if you start saving, you will go for it.
    "But if you're short five laps, you might as well come in early and then go for it."
   And Kyle's older  brother Kurt hasn't fared much better this season.  Ninth at California is his best finish so far.
   This 400 should be a good barometer for Kurt Busch with his new team owner James Finch: last spring here Busch, then with Roger Penske, won the pole, led the most laps (152), and wound up ninth in that gas mileage finish.
   Kurt, of course, no longer has access to an unlimited supply of race cars, because Finch runs a very small operation.
   "Being a team that only has 18 employees, we've got to get the best out of every guy," Kurt Busch says.
    "I think every guy on the team literally has three jobs.
    "We've had our struggles this year, but we've had some good moments -- like our races at California and Texas.
     "The good days are that much sweeter because of how much harder everyone here has to work to get the job done."

 The Busch brothers, Kurt (L) and Kyle. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


All last year the media was either wanting Kyle fired or at best just to see him shut up. M&M and JGR put the clamps on him. How's this working out?

From what I gather Kyle is pretty much avoiding the press. And it may be all that control over him has slowed him down on the track.

I've seen and heard so little from the M&M car I went out and bought a Hersey bar. And the big driver controversey of the year is Keslowski running his mouth on Reutimann?

And you wonder why the TV ratings are tanking?

Speaking of Reutimann...He's still the only MWR driver to have won a race. And that was before Miller when they had crappy cars. Makes 'ya wonder.


Just put Kyle in his #18 truck for a race or 2 and he will be back up to speed. Cutting back on his TRUCK series races has HURT him Big Time.

It also shows that its not just the Driver but the CAR in the Nationwide series , JGR's cars are running decent while Kyles entry has not been as dominate as when he was in the JGR #18

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