Can Kyle parlay Vegas win into fortune?
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Might this be the budding of another Kyle Busch hot streak?
The winner at Las Vegas this past Sunday is also defending champion of Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
And last year's win here was the first of his eight-win season that didn't go cold until September in the Chase.
"Another Kyle Busch hot streak? I don't think so," Wild Thing said Friday, perhaps still smarting from the mechanical failures that did him in during last year's playoffs.
And getting wrecked out of this season's opening Daytona 500, when he clearly had the car to beat, didn't help his belief in good and bad luck, either.
But, said Matt Kenseth, whose own two-win streak ended this past week at Vegas, "I haven't really seen Kyle not on a hot streak since he went over to Gibbs, to be honest with you. I know he struggled a little bit in the Chase and had problems here and there.
"But I think he's had one of the cars to beat, if not the car to beat -- seems like no matter what he drives, or whatever track we go to, since the beginning of last year. I don't see any reason why it's going to be any different."
Busch may have appeared to be savoring this past week's win as if there'd be no tomorrow, reportedly spewing $5,000 worth of Dom Perignon champagne on his team members at their celebration in Vegas, according to the celebrity gossip site TMZ.com.
"The extra publicity [for the party] was what it was -- no big deal," Busch said. "We were all out there celebrating because all the planes were grounded, so we were having a good time."
The more he pondered the notion of another streak, the more he warmed to it bit by bit.
"We just keep doing what we do and hopefully we can keep winning races," he said. "If it's a hot streak then it's a hot streak, if that's what you want to call it.
"But to me it's just supposed to be what it's supposed to be, and that's to run your best every weekend. And if the wins are coming, then that's what's supposed to happen."
The engine concerns that have hit all makes lately don't concern him much -- after all, it was Fords that were blowing this past week, while his Toyota hummed flawlessly, even though engineers had worried going in.
With all the chassis and body restrictions on the new car, engines are the only place to look for more speed.
"To me that's where your biggest gain is with this car," he said. "Everybody seems to be about maxed out with the setup on it, because we're in such a tight box that we really can't learn anymore."
So, "the biggest ground that you're going to make up is going to be on pit road and under the hood," Busch continued. "Guys are pushing the limits in the engines ..."
Will the possibility of a blown engine be a worry all race for him Sunday?
"No, no, it's not in the back of my mind," Busch said. "We might have motor failures here or there, but Mark [Cronquist, Joe Gibbs Racing's chief engine builder] does such a good job that I don't believe we'll have engine failures."
Going into Vegas, Toyota engineers "had to detune a bit," said Busch, "and hopefully they did that here for this weekend."
Michael Waltrip, who drives Toyotas for his own team, agreed there should be no worries for Busch.
Waltrip did point out that "this track here [AMS is 1.54 miles and high-banked for maximum RPM], especially, is very hard on engines. We run 500 miles on a track with two different-length straightaways, which means you're going down the frontstretch turning more RPM than on the back."
But, "I know Toyota has done a nice job of addressing their issues and making sure those problems don't rear their heads again," Waltrip continued. "If I was Kyle, I'd be very confident in what's under my hood, and just believe in my heart that it isn't going to have anything to do with what happens on Sunday."
That doesn't necessarily translate into a win and a streak for Busch, though, Waltrip said.
The win this past week came after "it had been quite a while since they'd won one of these things," Waltrip said. "It'll be interesting to see if this is going to be a hot streak, or if they just went into his hometown [Vegas] and were able to pump out a win.
"Obviously they were very good, and they were focused. We'll have to see where this streak goes."
Comparing early last season to early this season, "the 18 [Busch] seems like he didn't miss a beat from last year," Kevin Harvick said. "We're hoping he does the same thing he did last year, and just gets it all out of the way early."
Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE RACING HEADLINES
- Danica, Ky. Busch wreck in Bristol practice
- Kenseth to use standby drivers in case of baby
- NASCAR to allow cooling units during qualifying
- Keselowski passes Dale Jr., wins Las Vegas