Busches on pace with elite brothers


Kyle Busch is the reason for Toyota's Sprint Cup success this season -- not the other way around.

He has won seven times in 19 races -- only the 17th driver in Cup history to do that, and 11 of those drivers went on to win series titles. Busch joins a list that includes Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty and David Pearson. Not bad company to hang with.

Busch is the Cup points leader and has led the most laps. He'll start the Brickyard 400 on July 27 with a 262-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Heck, if Busch decided to take that weekend off, he'd still maintain a big lead.

He also has won five Nationwide and two Craftsman Truck races this year. His total of 14 victories in NASCAR's three national touring series ties him with the 14 won by Kevin Harvick in 2006 (five in Cup, nine in Nationwide).

And 17 Cup, 15 Nationwide and 14 truck races still remain for him to pass Harvick.

Busch certainly is this year's racing juggernaut, and with big brother Kurt's win two weeks ago, the Busches have won the last four Cup races.

Kurt's highlights this year are finishing second in the Daytona 500 and winning at Loudon, N.H. He is only 18th in points, but that's the result of driving an underachieving Dodge for an underachieving Penske Racing team. Kurt hasn't forgotten how to drive.

If we blame the manufacturer and team for Kurt's subpar season, should we give most of the credit for Kyle's success to Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing?

No.

By all accounts, the Toyotas have a horsepower edge over the field, but of the eight other Toyota drivers, only Kyle's teammate Denny Hamlin has won in Cup.

Consider this: Were Kyle not racing this year, Toyota would have only two wins, with Gibbs teammate Tony Stewart moving up one spot after finishing second to him at Atlanta.

Without Kyle on the starting grid, Ford haters would be clamoring about an advantage enjoyed by Roush Fenway Racing. Carl Edwards won three of the first seven Cup races and has been runner-up to Kyle three times, which would give Edwards six wins without having to compete against Kyle.

In a Kyle-free Cup series this year, Ford would have seven wins, Dodge and Chevy five apiece and Toyota two.

So where's the big edge for Toyota?

The only edge is a combination of Kyle's skills, passion and communication with crew chief Steve Addington, whose management has enabled his 23-year-old driver to win on every possible NASCAR track configuration -- from a road course to small, medium and big ovals.

Kyle just loves to drive race cars.

He finished fourth in his Late Model car Tuesday at Slinger Superspeedway -- a quarter-mile oval in Wisconsin -- and the next day tested the car at the Milwaukee Mile.

On Saturday, he'll drive a Billy Ballew Motorsports truck in NASCAR's truck series at Kentucky.

If he wins Saturday, Kyle will become the first driver to win successive races in Nationwide (he did that last Friday), Cup and trucks.

The next night, he'll compete in a regional ASA Late Model race at Iowa Speedway.

Kyle could have taken this week off but instead is racing -- darn near anything. That's why he's dominating. Racing is his focus.

Kurt grew up learning from his father, Tom, a noted racer in Southern Nevada. Kyle grew up learning from both.

The kid from Durango High has come a million miles since saying his car "sucked" after winning the first Car of Tomorrow race last year in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

He has become more humble but remains flamboyant.

"This is just an unbelievable year. ... You cherish them when you can get them, and definitely this year is one to cherish," Kyle said after winning Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. "This doesn't come along very often -- I never dreamed of this for myself.

"You always see it happen with somebody else, and you feel good about them being able to do that. Now, that feeling has come upon me.

"I know you have to stay humble and yet stay hungry ..."

Waltrip. Flock. Labonte. Burton.

Those names represent the four most successful brother combinations in NASCAR history.

Add the Busch boys to the list, if you haven't already.

What will set the Busch siblings apart from the Waltrips, Flocks and Burtons is that the Busches each will win a Cup series championship.

Terry Labonte won it in 1996, and Bobby Labonte followed suit four years later to set them apart.

Kurt won the ultimate prize in 2004, and Kyle is in position to do it this year, and if not, very soon.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit his motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

 

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