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Do you really think Kyle Busch can put that Daytona thing behind him, that Earnhardt-Vickers debacle?


Smokin' (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)


   By Mike Mulhern


   FONTANA, Calif.
   Is that steam still pouring out of Kyle Busch's ears?
   Or has he calmed down about Sunday night's rain-soaked misery…and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s bad hair Daytona 500?
   "Daytona was certainly disappointing and frustrating, but the season is so long you can't let one race bug you, once you are on to the next," Busch insists.
   "Last week was last week, and this week is this week.
   "Just like putting last year behind us, we've already put Daytona behind us, and we're focused on what we can do to run well at California and be in a position to win.
   "You can't change last week. It is what it is."
   And what it was was, well, Busch led 88 of the first 125 laps of the scheduled 200-lapper – when Earnhardt's anger at a blocking move on a restart by Brian Vickers got the best of him and triggered a retaliatory move that took out Busch and half a dozen others.
   For a guy just 23, and still somewhat rough around the edges, Busch has faced enough disappointments and disasters on the Sprint Cup trail to learn humility…something that didn't come easy for him during his first few years on the tour.
   Yes, he became the youngest winner in tour history when he won here in 2005. But talent alone doesn't make a man a star.
   "I didn't learn 'humble' at the beginning," Busch concedes. "The biggest thing I've probably learned this past year is that, despite how much success we had in the beginning of the year, and winning as many overall races as we did…and then not being able to capitalize on that in the last 10…well, that was pretty hard to swallow. 
   "But I've learned to put things behind me.
    "Through my whole racing career, once I started, it was all about winning. That's the way I was brought up.
    "It was all about going out there and getting the checkered flag and bringing home the trophy and kissing the pretty girl.
    "When we finished second or third, in our local short-track days, we went home mad.
    "So I've grown up some, and I think there are areas where I've improved.
    "But there are still some areas where I need to get better too.
     "It's all about learning from each problem that you encounter."
    Busch is certainly doing that. And he could the man to give Carl Edwards and Jimmy Johnson a run for the money here this weekend. Busch is one of the few to have won here in all three NASCAR divisions.
    "California has a strange place in my heart…because I remember my first Truck race here for, I got kicked out," Busch said, referring a curious legal battle a few years back over the under-21 Busch racing in an event sponsored by a tobacco company.
   "So the first Truck race I actually was able to run, I won, and that was pretty neat," Busch says.
    The youngest winner in tour history, eh?
   Well that mark may soon be broken, by Joey Logano, Busch's new teammate, just 18.
    Yes, Logano didn't fare all that well in the 500, getting crashed out while trying to give a fellow driver a break, and finishing 43rd. 
    But Logano, for his first time at Daytona, with all the pressure, didn't really do that badly.
    Now it's his first time in a Cup car at this fast two-miler.
   And Busch says this track may appear deceptively easy: "The place is tough. It's really a hard track to get hold of, especially when it's hot and the sun is out.
   "Plus, there are two completely different types of racing -- when you run the top versus the bottom.
   "When you run the bottom, you really feel you're puttering around the track. You feel you aren't making any time.
   "But when you are running the top, you feel you're getting the job done."
    Logano's Cup debut here follows a sixth-place finish in last year's Nationwide race.
   Of course Logano is now driving for the Greg Zipadelli team that Tony Stewart won two championships with during his years with Joe Gibbs.
   However this has never been a great track for Stewart and Zipadelli; their best runs were fourths.
   Logano's expectations here?   
   "I can't go into the weekends thinking about expectations," Logano says.  "I have a lot to learn at these tracks, so I need to focus, I need to continue to build communication.
   "We didn't have the finish we wanted last weekend, but we learned a lot about each other, got to know each other better, and that was not only important but critical for us."


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