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Kyle Busch: Free Bird!

  No pressure, no more...not on Kyle Busch at least. But everyone else out on the track better keep a close eye on this guy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   For Kyle Busch the pressure is off.
   And after last September's trip here, he's probably somewhat glad.
   Remember that dismal weekend? Busch came to Bruton Smith's newest track as one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR…only to fall prey Sunday to a broken chassis part – the first incident in a run of three-straight that took him right out of the Sprint Cup title chase.
   Oh, so swiftly.
   This time around, less than a week after Busch failed to make the playoff cut, by a thin eight points, Busch comes to New Hampshire Motor Speedway with no weight on his shoulders at all. And remember how Tony Stewart played the fall game a few years ago after he fell out of the title hunt….
   Busch now is free just to come and play the game.
   And of course he might well win half the races or more, from here till November.
   After all Busch already has four tour wins this year; no one has more. If not for a problem-filled summer, he and crew chief Steve Addington could well have more. And it's not like he collapsed at Richmond Saturday night; he finished a solid fifth, had good pit stops, could have made the chase…if not for Brian Vickers, who snatched the 12th spot in the 12-man playoffs.
   The real problem this season for Busch? "We just need to work on the consistency," Busch says.
   "We picked up at some tracks that we needed to…and we faltered at some tracks we thought we were good at.
    "It just wasn't our year; it wasn’t meant to be, for some reason.
     "I was put in this predicament for a reason, and one of these days I'll figure out why.
    "You've just got to focus on learning from everything that happens and try to turn it into a positive."
    Yes, teammate Denny Hamlin made the chase. But don't expect Busch now to be, in Lance Armstrong's words, the 'domestique,' helping clear paths for Hamlin.
    Oh, yes....."Along with us hopefully winning some races, all of the focus is going on Denny…and I'll do my best to help Denny and bring Joe Gibbs Racing a championship," Busch says.
    "Denny has got a lot, going forward: He's going to have a big momentum boost, and he runs so well at Loudon, and next week at Dover he does well too.
    "They have got it going…if they can keep the parts together.
    "Unfortunately we didn't last year."
   But Busch has his own agenda too.
    Busch, whose personality seems as up-and-down as his on-track performance, was gracious in defeat Saturday night at Richmond.
     He's tried hard to get his act together outside the car, and sometimes he seems on the verge of finding the touch.
     But only to lose it again.
    Missing the chase Busch says "is very, very frustrating.
     "There were a lot of situations this year that I screwed up, that we got put into bad spots…and had a couple days that we were bad on pit road, others where we just couldn't hit the setup right.
    "It's a conglomeration of things that put us in this predicament. It's not just one thing, it's not those last two weeks – It's the previous 26."
     And the next 10?
     Busch finished seventh here in June, better than last season's 25th and 34th. And he did win here in 2006. But flat tracks, like this one-mile 'Martinsville' have been iffy…..
     "It's the Cup side that I've had some issues with on the flat tracks," Busch says. "On the Nationwide side of it we are fine.
    "And in the past, with Rick Hendrick, I was fine on the flat stuff too. But for some reason with these Gibbs cars I don't have the feel for it. I'm not sure why or what it is.
    "We went to New Hampshire in June with my own setup, and it seemed to pay off for us, rather than trying a Denny setup. 
    "Denny always runs well on the flat tracks, but his driving style is so much different than mine, I can't run the same setup."
    The key in Sunday's 300 could well be brakes, with these tight corners and long straights, and Busch has a new brake package this season.


Best Thing For The Chase Is For Disruption

The best thing that can happen to the Chase is for Kyle Busch and others not in the running to outfight the Chasers and steal the wins from them - and thus show the sanctioning body that racing is about fighting for the win, not about points.

You might be right. We've got

You might be right. We've got to put more on wins. David Poole said each driver in the chase who wins a chase race should get a 500-point bonus for that first chase win....just one 500-point bonus per man. That would put a lot of emphasis on winning at least once, clearly. That's a good idea. Me, I think a 100-point bonus for winning a race -- every race, all 36, paying that 100 points -- would also do the trick. I think we need to do some tweaking on the chase. But I can't even get NASCAR to rethink the last 10 races of the season. Remember when the chase was created -- it was just an arbitrary line -- the first 26, then the last 10 -- with no thought about the venues. Sorry, we need to put our best 10 shows in the chase, or best 12 shows (I think the chase should kick off Labor Day weekend, making Bristol the playoff clinching event, and then giving us 12 races, right through the heart of the football season. Starting the chase in the middle of September? You can hear the yawns across America.

You may not be able to say

You may not be able to say who, mike, but, what has NASCAR said about rearranging the schedule to have the best tracks in the Chase? Did they blow you off or do they really think they have a good lineup of tracks.

Also, what's the word on adding Iowa, Nashville, Gateway, and Kentucky to the Cup schedule? That means getting rid of some of the yawner tracks, but even if the racing is no better and the "new" tracks, at least it would be a change of scenery each of those tracks is fairly unique. Nashville not so much in layout, but it would be the largest concrete track on the schedule.



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