Busch makes bold statement with road-course triumph in Sonoma
Mile-and-a-half tracks? Check. Restrictor-plate tracks? Check. Short tracks? Check. Road courses? Check. Kyle Busch proved Sunday he can win anywhere after dominating the Sprint Cup race at 12-turn Infineon Raceway, writes David Newton.
Updated: June 23, 2008, 1:39 AM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
SONOMA, Calif. -- Jeff Gordon didn't think much about Kyle Busch as a road-course driver earlier in Busch's Sprint Cup career. He wasn't convinced early in Sunday's race at Infineon Raceway, either, when the 23-year-old driver appeared almost out of control passing him.By the time the sun started to set behind the hills around this 1.99-mile track, as Busch did a victory burnout that created seemingly as much smoke as the forest fire that created havoc on this area 24 hours earlier, Gordon had a different opinion.
"You've got to give that guy a lot of credit," said Gordon, who finished third behind Busch and David Gilliland. "If you can keep it on the track all day, you get credit from me."Busch, who hadn't won a Cup race on a road course, certainly didn't let Dale Earnhardt Jr. keep the spotlight long. A week after watching the driver who forced him to leave Hendrick Motorsports for Joe Gibbs Racing end his 76-race losing streak, he took the checkered flag in a Sprint Cup race for the fifth time this season."Obviously he's maturing and learning," said Gordon, who has won more times (five) at Infineon than any driver. "That's what it's going to take for him to maintain that points lead and be a factor and continue to win races."If he can win here, it's going to boost his confidence. He might think he can win anywhere. He might be able to."There's no reason to think otherwise. Busch has won on every kind of track NASCAR's premier series has to offer this season. He was first on the mile-and-a-half track at Atlanta, the restrictor-plate track at Talladega Superspeedway, arguably the toughest track on the circuit at Darlington Raceway and the short track at Dover.The only thing missing from his Cup résumé before Sunday was a road-course win."[Check] another one off the list," Busch said as he took his parade lap.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezKyle Busch started 30th after a poor qualifying effort but led the most laps Sunday (78).
This may have been the most impressive victory of Busch's career. He started 30th and showed little sign of being anything better than middle of the pack in Saturday's final practice.He was so bad, "I was trying to figure out which tire barrier we were going to put it in.""I have never turned a race car around that much," he said.Much of the credit goes to crew chief Steve Addington and his crew for making the right adjustments. But just as much has to go to Busch, whose talent is ripening like the grapes of a top-grade California wine."It's a new year -- I guess it's a new me," Busch said.The new Busch learned much of what enabled him to lead 78 of 110 laps from his old teammates, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Following road-course specialists such as Boris Said and Robby Gordon the past few years also helped.
But it wasn't until his Nationwide Series victory earlier this year on the road course in Mexico City when everything sunk in."Hopefully, we can keep it up," Busch said. Busch was so dominant that he never felt threatened by Gilliland through multiple restarts over the final laps. Not even Tony Stewart, who was headed for a second-place finish before being spun out with four laps remaining, had anything for his teammate."We weren't as good as Kyle," Stewart said after rallying to finish 10th.
his confidence. He might think he can win anywhere. He might be able to.
-- Jeff Gordon on Kyle Busch
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