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Pat Tryson, like fellow crew chief Steve Letarte, has suddenly turned from zero to hero


Crew chief Pat Tryson: when he gets on a roll, keep a sharp eye on Kurt Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

  One of the more underplayed stories this early NASCAR season is Kurt Busch's comeback.
  After a year in which the older Busch bro nearly vanished, now he appears back in form, or at least close to form.
  Since leaving Jack Roush after winning the championship, Busch hasn't fared well over at Roger Penske's, for whatever reason.
   Now, though, he's a surprising seventh in the Sprint Cup standings heading in race four of the season.
   Credit crew chief Pat Tryson for finally finding a setup that Busch can live with.
   Tryson, like fellow crew chief Steve Letarte, running Jeff Gordon's team (winless in 2008), has heard the complaints: "It's not a lot of fun. I probably went through it the same last year that he did. It's not a lot of fun.
    "But it's part of the business.
    "The good part is we made it through last year, and now we can pull together and be that much stronger.
    "And when things are good, it makes it that much sweeter."
    Setting up one of these chassis is no walk in the park.
   Consider that all these drivers, when they into the corners at 200 mph with these cars-of-tomorrow, are basically driving race cars with no suspension, with no springs, with no shocks. 
    Put it bluntly: These new cars -- because teams use 'bump-stops' to limit the spring-travel on the nose of the car (in order to keep the front bumper from scraping the pavement, but also to get the bumper as close to that pavement as possible, for the best aerodynamics) – are bricks.
   At 200 mph, you try riding a 3400-pound brick.
   NASCAR officials, for some reason, seems to think they can defy the laws of physics.
   Clearly they can't.
   And these drivers – and fans – carry the burden.
   Tryson says his season got off to a good start "when we got caught up in the wreck at Daytona and still manage to pull a top-10 out.
   "We had a great race in California…and it looked like we were going to have a great race at Las Vegas, we just had a little engine problem."
   And what about the tires here this time? Any clues from what Goodyear carried to California and Vegas?
   "Goodyear has a new tire,  but I would expect the handling characteristics to be pretty similar," Tryson says. "All the tires they've used this year have added some more grip.
   "But Atlanta is a track that is old, and it wears out tires. So you have to handle well….and expect to get looser as we go on long runs.
     "I think the reason engine failures are up is that Goodyear has come with new tires and the cars are handling better.
    "If you look at Las Vegas, I think we went a half a second faster than last year.
   "If speeds are up, you turn a little more RPM, and it's a little harder on the motor."
   Toyotas and Fords have had engine problems the past two weeks. "And we broke a valve spring in Las Vegas," Tryson said.
    "Right now we're more worried about reliability than horsepower…because we have to finish these races.
    "I think everybody will be backing their stuff down. Atlanta is hard on engines.
    "But it may be the same trend again this weekend. We didn't have testing, so guys might be pushing the limits a little harder than they normally would."
    And that has drivers themselves a bit on edge too.
   "The anxiety is higher because you don't know where you stand," Tryson says. "At least in the past when you've gone testing you have a pretty good idea…"
   And there's the new Dodge engine, which teams have generally shied away from, or not pushed to the limits, even though it's been on the tour for more than a year.
   "It has a lot of potential," Tryson says. "We're being pretty conservative with it, because we want to finish races and not have problems."

Kurt Busch: back in the saddle again (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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