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Will Sunday's Bristol 500 continue this season of surprises?


Kurt Busch's win at Atlanta has car owner Roger Penske back on track (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Is Kurt Busch back in the saddle again?
   Does he have enough to handle his wild kid brother this season?
   This place should tell the tale, because Kurt once dominated this track. And the hot start to 2009 has created rising expectations of a Roger Penske comeback season, after a couple of very slow years.
   But Kyle has been the man to beat here lately.
   "This is one of the fun tracks on the circuit – it challenges you every day, because you never know if you have this place conquered," Kurt Busch says.
   "With the new configuration, it's definitely a different animal. It's not the old rough-and-tough, chew you up and spit you out track…though it can still do that.
   "But now there's low groove and a high groove. It used to be just single-file, but now cars are side-by-side."
   Whether fans will appreciate that, well, the notorious Bristol of years past is history, and drivers may now be more racey around each other.
   And if Kurt Busch wins Sunday's Food City 500 (2 p.m. EDT), will he do another 'Kulwicki' victory lap, in reverse gear?
  "The 'Unwind Lap' is what we're going to call our in-reverse victory lap," he says.
   "Hopefully we'll get a chance to tear up reverse gears all over the nation this year with some wins.
   "I had no idea the car would go that fast in reverse around the track."
   Now if Busch wins Talladega, a lap in reverse could be quite interesting.
  And kid brother Kyle Sunday?
  "Sometimes you have to give the benefit of the doubt, sort of, here, and Martinsville, when guys are racing side-by-side and they slip up and bang you a little…or when you come off the corner and you crowd somebody on old tires," Kyle says.
   "It's hard to hold your own lane, especially with the Cup cars, because they are so hard to handle.
   "To me it's just about battling the track, battling your car, and then battling the other drivers.  That's the order you put it in. 
   "The only car you're racing is the leader. When guys are 25th, and the leader is coming up behind them to put them a lap down, that's when they get overzealous…and then they get into somebody, and that's what causes a caution." 
    Kyle of course is running all three NASCAR series again this season, and of the three he says "the most fun is probably the Trucks, with a very close second in the Nationwide cars. 
    "The Cup cars are the hardest to drive, so they're not all that fun. But the greatest satisfaction comes when you win a Cup race, just because it's the biggest."

Kurt Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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