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Kyle Busch concedes a Sunday slump

 Slumping: Kyle Busch (R) and crew chief Dave Rogers (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   If you thought the balance of power on the stock car tour was shifting, Kyle Busch says you're right.
   And Busch says Joe Gibbs' teams, who won seven of 10 during a spring stretch, hit a slump at Sonoma, Calif., in June.
   "We're well aware of it," Busch says.  "We're asking the same questions you are: where did it go? 
    "We don't know."
    Over those last six races – Sonoma, Loudon, Daytona, Chicago, Indianapolis and Pocono – Denny Hamlin's best was Sunday's fifth at Pocono, and he's averaging a 16.6 finish. Busch's best in that stretch was an eighth at the Brickyard; he's averaging just a 23.0 finish. Joey Logano's 20.6 average finish is highlighted by a pair of ninths.
   "We talked in our meetings earlier this week that the race tracks Denny excelled at during that 10-race stretch were race tracks he really likes and runs well at," Busch says. 
    "Then we lost our momentum at Sonoma and just haven't really picked back up. 
    "We both had fast race cars at Daytona;  I wrecked his in practice, mine in practice...and we were still fast in the race. 
    "But we just haven't quite been able to hit it here lately. 
     "Hopefully going back to Michigan next week, where Denny ran well (and won) in the spring can bounce the team back, and we can learn from them and carry some momentum."
    With only five races left till the playoffs, it appears there are 13 men solidly in the hunt for the 12-man cut, with Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer just 34 points apart.
   Does that make the men probably doomed to missing the cut more dangerous?
   How to play defense on this road course, considering how wild Sonoma was?
   "You can (play defense) to a point," Busch says. "But how far do you push it? 
    "Like last year I was running for the Nationwide championship, and I could have pushed it and played the defense a little bit more with Marcos Ambrose down the back (stretch) getting into the 'bus stop' (chicane).  But I knew if he was driving in there as far as he was driving in there anyway, and if I would have turned down in front of him, I would have wrecked myself. 
    "It wouldn't have been very good for our points situation.
    "So I did the right thing and just bowed out and regrouped and got back after it."
   It might not be so easy on these double-file restarts Sunday. 
    "The way the restarts were at Sonoma was pathetic," Busch said.  "I thought it was disgusting for Cup racers.
   "And if it happens again this weekend, we look like idiots.  We don't know what the hell we're doing."

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   Denny Hamlin (L), talking with crew chief Mike Ford (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

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