When the Sprint Cup Series made its annual stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago, much was said about it being the hometown of the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle. They spent their youth there, racing in several different series before heading to the southeast to make their name in NASCAR.
While Las Vegas may lay legal claim to being the home of one of NASCAR’s most famous brother duos, it could be that Bristol is the place that really gives them that hometown feeling. Kyle’s win on Sunday in the Jeff Byrd 500 tied him with brother Kurt and Jeff Gordon as the active drivers with the most all-time Bristol wins.
The win also continued a streak for Kyle that includes five consecutive wins on the track. Last August he proved that he was the reigning king of Bristol when he swept the entire weekend of races at the half-mile track that included a victory in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series. He came back this weekend and backed up that performance with another sweep by winning both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races.
Busch’s win on Sunday was his first win of the season and the 20th of his career which puts him in a tie for the 33rd spot on the sport’s all-time win list at the tender age of 25. Maybe more impressive than the total number of wins that he has notched is the fact that Sunday’s win continued his streak of seven consecutive seasons with posting at least one victory in the Sprint Cup Series.
The younger Busch showed the series what was in store when in his first full time season in 2005 he won two races on his way to becoming the rookie of the year. That season was just a preview of what to come as the following year he finished 10th in the point standings that started a string of three consecutive years of making the Chase with the highest finishing in the season ending point standings being a fifth in 2007.
The string of Chase appearances ended in 2009 when he finished one spot out of the elite 12 but still finished third in the series in wins as he posted four trips to victory lane. It was during that season that his crew chief Steve Addington was reassigned within the Joe Gibbs Racing operation and Dave Roberts took over on the pit box for Busch.
Roberts helped Busch return to the Chase last season as the two made three visits to victory lane on their way to an eighth-place finish in the final point standings. On the season the pair posted ten top-5 and 18 top-10 finishes and at one point in the spring strung together eight top-10 finishes that resulted in him climbing as high as second in the point standings.
Kyle entered Sunday’s race in the 14th spot after the first three races of the season, 27 points out of the top spot that was held by Tony Stewart. Stewart had a rough day at Bristol, finishing 19th which, when combined with Kyle’s win, moved him up to sixth. He now finds himself only 17 points out of the top spot that was taken over by his brother, Kurt.
Kurt won the championship in 2004 and since being united with Kyle’s former crew chief Addington at the start of the 2010 season, the pair has shown a steady improvement that now has them a threat to win at every stop on the schedule. His lead is only one point over second-place driver Carl Edwards who finished second on Sunday after winning the previous race at Vegas.
Twenty-eight points now separate Kurt at the top of the point standings and Kasey Kahne in the 12th position, which shows that the bonus system within the new point system may have a hand in determining the drivers that make it into the Chase. The new system awards 43 points for winning with each following spot being separated by one point. The winner receives three bonus points for the win and each driver to lead a lap receives one bonus point with an additional point being awarded to the driver that leads the most laps.
Every point sure does count, and for the Busch brothers there is no other stop on the schedule where they would rather count up their points than at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Race Preview Event: Auto Club 400 Track: Auto Club Speedway (2- mile D-shaped oval, 14 degrees of banking) Date: March 27, 3 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Jimmie Johnson