Gordon on points leader Busch: 'It's hard to bet against Kyle'
What makes Kyle Busch so dangerous in the Chase for the Sprint Cup? He's aggressive and he's brimming with confidence. All he's lacking is the championship experience, writes David Newton.
- RICHMOND, Va. -- Kyle Busch was leading 212 laps into Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway, in position for his ninth win of an amazing season, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into his left-rear quarter panel as the two fought for position.Busch spun out, causing enough damage to put him a lap down in 38th place and sending the crowd -- recalling the incident between the two going for the win late in the May race -- into a frenzy. He spun out again on Lap 224 after contact from Elliott Sadler.He finished 15th.Perhaps that's why former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon said on Friday that Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards and two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson were more ready to win the Championship Chase than the 23-year-old points leader."Kyle, he has the ability to go really hard, really fast, and he's made big improvement this year over last year," the four-time Cup champion said. "I'd certainly put him at the top or in the top three or four guys who really has a shot at this championship."But I would put Carl ahead of him as far as being ready experiencewise, and I'd put Jimmie ahead of both of those guys with just his experience of winning the last two."Gordon wasn't saying Busch, who will enter the 10-race Chase next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a 30-point lead over Edwards, can't win the title. He wasn't saying Busch isn't ready to win his first title.He simply said others were more ready than the new sheriff at Joe Gibbs Racing who has won 18 times this season, combining his victories in the Cup, Nationwide and Truck series."Last year when he drove for us, there wasn't a single practice that they didn't have to knock out the right side on the car," Gordon said of Busch. "This year it seems to be like every fifth race that happens. "So he's still doing it a little bit, which isn't a bad thing he's pushing that hard. That's why he runs fast and they've won a bunch of races, so he's gotten more comfortable."Johnson said the same thing a few weeks earlier. He also believes Busch is ready to take the throne in NASCAR's premier series. "Definitely," he said. "He's shown that all year long. I've said all along, even when he was a teammate with us, once he figures out how to win a race he's not going to stop, and he's done that."I feel the same [way] for a championship."Busch has built what might have been an insurmountable lead under the old points system not only by winning more races during the first 26 events than anybody since the Chase format was introduced in 2004, but by also being more consistent.That he rallied to finish as high as he did Sunday was almost as impressive as Johnson's victory, his second straight and fourth of the year.The only thing that could seemingly get in the way of Busch's taking the crystal trophy given out at Homestead-Miami Speedway is Busch himself."He's been his own enemy at times with trying too hard and being too aggressive and forcing things," Johnson said. "I think Kyle is figuring that out and is going to be a serious threat this year and for the years to come in the championship." Busch's maturity never was more evident than the July race at Daytona International Speedway. He nearly wrecked on Lap 83, but instead of pushing and spinning out of control as he might have in the past, Busch went down on the apron to gather his car.He fell all the way to the back of the field, but patiently worked his way to the front for his second win in three weeks."He just chilled and said, 'Whatever, I'm going to make it through this corner,'" said Alan Gustafson, Busch's crew chief at HMS. "That was a champion-caliber move there. You might not have seen that out of him earlier in his career.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Scott k. BrownTony Stewart (20) beats Kyle Busch out of the pits during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond.
He's been his own enemy at times with trying too hard and being too aggressive and forcing things. I think Kyle is figuring that out and is going to be a serious threat this year and for the years to come in the championship.
-- Jimmie Johnson
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CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP PREVIEW
Monday• Hinton: How the Chase was born
• Hinton: How the 2004 Chase was won
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 1975-79
• Chat wrap: Jayski insider Mark Garrow
• Chat wrap: NASCAR Now's Andy Petree
Tuesday• Newton: Stewart does it old and new in '05
• Newton: How the 2005 Chase was won
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 1980-84
• Chat wrap: Terry Blount
Wednesday• Blount: Jimmie took 'em to school
• Blount: How the 2006 Chase was won
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 1985-89
• SportsNation chat: David Newton
Thursday• Smith: No Chase breaks for Gordon
• Smith: How the 2007 Chase was won
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 1990-94
• SportsNation chat: Tim Cowlishaw
Friday• McGee: This Chase thing is all Kenseth's fault
• McGee: So who do we think will win?
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 1995-99
Saturday• Hinton: Dale Jr.'s burden
• Hinton: Gordon & Co. working on it
• Newton: Fast start nice, not necessary
• Willis: Ancient Chaseology: 2000-03
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