Bruce Martin
Monday June 2nd, 2008

KOONTZ LAKE, Ind. -- It appears that Kyle Busch is getting the last laugh after he was dismissed from Hendrick Motorsports last June to make room for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

At the time, there were more than a few skeptics who wondered if team owner Rick Hendrick had let go of the wrong man. After all, the young driver from Las Vegas displayed tremendous talent and potential, even if he wasn't known for doing and saying all the right things.

So Hendrick's loss made Busch the big prize for other team owners in Sprint Cup, and when Joe Gibbs Racing signed the driver, it was expected to be a successful combination.

After winning four Cup races in the first 13 events, stunning would be a better way to describe Busch this season.

It's not just Sprint Cup but every car or truck that Busch climbs into. Sunday's win at Dover, Del. was the 10th victory for Busch this season, counting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. He has four Nationwide wins and two NCTS victories.

In the meantime, Earnhardt continues to search for his first Cup win for Hendrick.

Even though "Shrub" is known for speaking his mind, and it isn't always what the team wants to hear, he is benefiting from marrying his great talent to JGR's well-prepared race cars.

"That was all I had," Busch said of a win at Dover that saw him use outstanding pit stops to get in front late in the race. "That was it. I was just riding, taking care of it and running 90 percent and not pushing too hard to try to do anything stupid. That was about all she had. There wasn't much that I could have done. If I would've tried driving any harder I probably would've just wrecked myself.

"The [crew] should enjoy this win. This is their win right here. I just drove a race car and drove a race that I just needed to pace myself and just run around the bottom every lap and not really move around much. Even though I could, I just didn't need to. The guys that pitted this thing on pit road definitely won it for us and they are deserving."

Most impressive about Busch's season has been his ability to adapt to almost any circumstance and find a way to win. That has made him the driver to beat in Sprint Cup racing as the summer season is here and teams jockey for position in "The Chase for the Championship."

"For me, I believe there's a way that you drive the trucks, there's a way you drive the Nationwide cars; that's full out, as fast as you can go," Busch said. "The harder you go, the faster you can go. These cars here (in Cup), you have to pace yourself a little bit. You have to slow them down. You can drive them hard for the first three or four laps, then you have to start backing off, start slowing down, slowing up your entry, slowing down the center, just kind of moseying around the corner, trying to make the thing stick in one particular groove.

"I've found something that's worked for me here recently in the past few weeks. I found it at Darlington. I won there. Then I finished third at Lowe's. Then we won here again today. You know, we're gaining on the car as well. But I think a lot of it is a little bit of the driver. You've got to stay calm when you can. You've got to get going when the time's right and when you can get riled up.

"I just want to win everything, man," Busch said. "That's all I'm here for."

While Busch continues to keep winning, he's had to overcome some adversity, including this weekend when someone broke into his team transporter and stole his race helmet.

"Friday night somebody snuck in the garage area with the cleanup crew and rattled the back doors of the trailer open, dumped their beer and ice and everything in the trailer, went up into the lounge, stole my helmet," Busch said. "Somebody saw it happen, I guess, they told security guards outside. They were checking everybody that was leaving the racecar.

"They found him, confiscated him, brought the helmet back. It didn't matter. It's not a lucky helmet. It's not any of that."

The incident offered an interesting twist on a driver more accustomed to playing the villain himself, a role team owner Joe Gibbs has long understood.

"From the very first time we talked to Kyle, he came over, we sat down and talked, J.D. Gibbs and everybody there," Gibbs said. "We never make a decision at Joe Gibbs Racing unless everybody agrees and is in on it. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart both said to us, 'Go get him.'

"Kyle is very smart, knows a lot about the racecar, had a lot of questions. So basically for us, the most telling question I felt like in the whole time that I talked to him, something that came up about, 'Hey, what happened the year before where he was ...' He said, 'Hey, I'm young, I'm going to make some mistakes.'

"I thought he was very honest. I thought he was humbled in that. He had a good, humble statement there. We know he's a great talent. I just think he fit mainly because everybody in our group, when we met with him, said, 'we need to get him.' I don't know if that got the whole question or not."

Brash he may be, but Busch understands the difficulty of winning races in Cup, a difference he will be reminded of when he tests in Toyota's F1 effort.

"It's just going to be something to do," Busch said of the F1 test. "Just going to have some fun, go over there, take a vacation part of it."

Could Busch make the transition? Not according to former Formula One driver Scott Speed, who scored his first career victory in Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and took a shot at any American driver in NASCAR who thought they were capable of running in F1.

"He (Speed) has got a rude awakening when he gets going a little bit further," responded Busch. "Just because he won in his sixth start doesn't mean that it comes all that often. People around the sport go years without winning. Sometimes they go 50, 80, however many races between wins. It's a hard sport.

"He was probably pretty gratified that he won and yet he probably doesn't know when his next one's going to come. We'll see. It's not as easy as it looks here, that's for sure. You have 43 of the best competitors in the whole world every weekend that are racing together. It's obviously hard for a lot of them to make two corners and to figure out two different corners at a racetrack."

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono International Raceway the condition of the eastern Pennsylvania track does not make it a favorite among the competitors.

"I love the Mattioli's and I'm a huge supporter of them but their race track is out dated," Jeff Gordon said. "It needs a ton of upgrades. I think that the fact that it's in the Northeast is a positive thing, but I'm shocked that they've had two races as long as they have and I'll be surprised if that stays that way for the future just because of the way this sport has grown and the markets that we need to be in.

"I'm as curious as anybody else is to see the future of that track. Obviously there's a lot going on right now with Kentucky and New Hampshire and with Bruton Smith (buying those tracks). I'm as anxious to see how it all unfolds as anybody else. When they create this schedule, that's where we'll go."

NASCAR teams tested at Pocono last week in preparation for this Sunday's race and many of the drivers complained about the track surface.

"The track needs to be repaved," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's real, real rough. It's real rough. They paved this little strip in Turn 3 in the third groove and we're all running around on it.

"It was real funny, when we first hit the track I saw that strip of asphalt in the third groove and I thought, "Man, I bet that's got a lot of grip.' And if I can figure out a way to get up there and run on it, I might find some speed. And by the end of the test, everybody was running there. That's going to be slightly amusing I think, to see in the race."

Although she has been criticized for going too far after her march down pit lane in the 92nd Indianapolis 500 for a potential confrontation with Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick makes no apologies for her show of emotion after getting knocked out of the Memorial Day Weekend race.

Patrick arrived at the Milwaukee Mile Friday afternoon unrepentant for showing her anger but more than ready to move on to Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 IndyCar Series race.

"I don't really regret those things," Patrick said. "I don't regret my instincts or emotions. It's my character and my honest personality. Sometimes it comes in smiles and sometimes it comes in frowns.

"You look back at situations that you can do better, but otherwise it is life. My life happens in front of a camera all the time but I don't regret any of those decisions."

As Patrick returned to the site of her highly-publicized spat with Dan Wheldon in last year's race, she especially wants to move forward from her latest fiasco with Briscoe.

"As a race car driver, I don't think any of us have a hard time doing that," Patrick said of putting last week's incident in the past. "Adrenalin is pumping and that lasts after every weekend at the track for an hour or two afterwards," Patrick said. "You are thinking about it, you are talking and debriefing the whole thing and that is the same every weekend.

"I'm quickly moving on to Milwaukee. That was last weekend and this is this weekend."

Patrick displays tremendous passion and determination, but it sometimes comes across in a negative manner. She's the perfect driver at Andretti Green Racing because she appears to have some of the Andretti gene in her of never admitting anything wrong; that it is always the other driver's fault.

Patrick and Briscoe have had run-ins before, notably at Infineon Raceway in August 2005, when Briscoe drove Patrick off the race course and she confronted him afterwards.

But Patrick said the incident on pit lane in the Indy 500 was an isolated situation.

"Every incident is its own and I don't think it's fair to compile them unless it's a horrible trend," Patrick said. "I react to each situation as it comes up. No matter what would have happened I would have been disappointed in the way it happened and how it happened no matter who it was."

In a week that began with being stalked by Patrick after a pit-lane crash took both out of the 92nd Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe achieved redemption in a most fitting way with his first IndyCar Series victory in Milwaukee.

But Briscoe's win in Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 included one fearful moment late in the race when he was nearly sucked up into the biggest crash in the contest.

With two laps to go, Marco Andretti's car was on the inside of Ed Carpenter's when the two made contact. Carpenter's car did a half-spin and crashed into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 while Andretti's car spun in the middle of the track and was hit by Vitor Meira.

Meira's car became airborne, climbing over Andretti's race car before landing on all four wheels.

Briscoe missed the incident by less than a foot.

"Well, a million things went through my mind," Briscoe said. "We had a couple laps to go, and I was pretty comfortable. I knew how to keep Scott Dixon behind me, and I was like, let's just bring this home.

"And then all of a sudden I'm seeing smoke in front of me and I'm seeing cars flying; I'm like, this is not what I need."

Briscoe was able to win the race not by slamming his foot on the accelerator but by stomping on the brakes.

"The brakes locked up trying to avoid that [while I was] thinking 'This is not good.' Then, 'Wheewww,' and huge relief and that was it," Briscoe said. "It was close, though. I think I would have been in tears if I would have been hit. "I think it was probably less than a foot."

Of the million things that went through Briscoe's mind in such a brief moment of truth, he admitted one of them was "God, why me?"

"Absolutely, and as I said if I would have got caught up in that, I would have been under the bus crying right now, that's for sure," Briscoe admitted.

It was the 300th victory in Team Penske history covering all forms of auto racing.

"It must be a big deal because we've got a hat made," team owner Roger Penske said afterwards while wearing a black cap with the number 300 on it. "I guess they have been carrying these around, they told me today.

"We're getting old here."

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