Sunday, February 19, 2012

The talented Mr. Busch

So, if you follow NASCAR at least a little bit you know who Kyle Busch is.
And if you follow NASCAR at least a little bit, you either love him or hate him. It's extremely rare to bring up his name to a NASCAR fan and get a "he's OK, but I don't really have an opinion" type of comment.
But no matter which side of the fence you are on, and judging by the large amount of jeers and much fewer cheers during driver introductions, most are on the "not a fan" side of the fence, it would be wrong to not respect his ability as a driver.
We're not talking about his post-race comments at times, that can be misread or misinterpreted to fit an opinion of him. We're not talking about his lapses of judgement on the track where he bumps a competitor during a caution period. We're talking about his simple, yet rare, ability to drive a race car. And he's got a ton of that.

It was plenty evident during his Bud Shootout win Saturday at Daytona. The 75-lap, two-segment, non-points race, was the first NASCAR event of the 2012 season. There were three big wrecks, just 10 of 25 cars on the lead lap at the end, and 13 cars still running at the end.
But Busch put on a driving display rarely seen.
First, with 28 laps to go, he was bumped by former Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson. It was assumed probably by all watching that the race was in for another big wreck. Afterall, these things happen at Daytona and you just don't keep a car from spinning when you get bumped while going nearly 200 mph. It just doesn't happen.
But with Busch behind the wheel, it happened. He made the improbable save, going down below the yellow line twice and coming back into the racing groove only to not be hit. No big wreck. Just a dented front bumper for Busch, but certainly a very drivable car.
So with two laps to go, Busch found himself in second behind Tony Stewart, ready to make an improbable run for the win. But this time, another former Hendrick teammate (is there a theme here?) bumped him, supposedly sending Busch and likely others on their way out of the competition. But Busch saved it again, and Gordon got caught in the melee. Busch did eventually spin on the infield apron after traffic had passed, but he did not take a hit.
Then, he hooked up with Stewart on the green-white-checkered finish and he eventually pushed Stewart to the lead. And as they approached the final turn, Busch made the pass to win.
So, not only did he survive, he thrived.
It takes a special talent to do both and Busch had it on display Saturday night.

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