RICHMOND, Va. _ Throughout the years Kyle Busch has been called many things. Impatient. Rowdy. Aggressive. You name it, he’s probably been called it. Yet, one thing Busch has rarely been called is patient. Saturday night in Richmond, patience was the name of the game for ‘Rowdy’ Busch. That, coupled with a newfound maturity allowed the No. 18 team to celebrate in victory lane.
From the start of the race, Busch – who sat on the pole – set off on a torrid pace. Leading all but six of the first 229 laps, at one point Busch put all but eight cars at least one lap down. However, that lead quickly went away just past the halfway mark. By not losing his cool under the helmet and working with crew chief Dave Rogers, Busch was able to find himself within striking distance at the end and make the right moves when it mattered most to score the win.
“For the old Kyle Busch, he would have folded,” Busch said. “The new one, he stuck in there, he dug hard. He kept going.”
Throughout the midsection of the race, as his car faded Busch wisely avoided getting aggravated with himself and the crew. Over the past few years, when situations arose like the one that occurred Saturday, Busch was quick to jump all over his crew for ruining the car. The communication needed to make adjustments to remedy the situation was often null and void, resulting in disappointing finishes and frustration.
This was not the case Saturday night. Despite falling out of the lead and being passed by cars multiple laps down, Busch remained calm on the radio and provided Rogers the type of information needed to adjust on the car and make it better.
Thanks to that communication and four fresh Goodyear tires with 30 laps to go, Busch was able to climb back into contention as the checkered flag approached. Once he could taste the lead, the driver they call ‘Rowdy’ did what he does best by jumping up on the wheel and getting the job done on the two final restarts of the evening.
So where did this new Kyle come from and what has he done with the Kyle Busch of old?
For one, Busch is now a NASCAR champion. By winning the Nationwide Series title in 2009, team owner Joe Gibbs feels Busch learned the patience needed to be just as successful on the Cup side.
“I think this year, you know, had this been last year with three or four of the things that happened to us in some of the races this year, particularly this one, I think you probably would have seen a different reaction,” Gibbs said. “I appreciate the new Kyle.”
Another possibility is his new role as a team owner in the Camping World Truck Series. We have seen in the past that when drivers move into an ownership role, their outlook and attitude towards the sport changes. Kevin Harvick is the perfect example. A fly off the handle type of driver in his earliest days in the Cup Series, once he and his wife DeLana created Kevin Harvick, Inc. (which fields teams in the Nationwide and Truck Series), Harvick mellowed into the driver he is today.
Taking on an ownership role in the Truck Series, Busch now has to deal with a number of different aspects of the sport he never had to deal with before as a driver. Running a business takes extreme maturity and patience, all things he could apply to his on-track performance.
“You know, I think it’s a lot of everything,” Busch said. “To be honest with you, I think, shoot, man, I turn 25 [on Sunday], I’m getting old. I feel that way anyway. But, you know, it’s got somewhat to do with the truck stuff. It’s got somewhat to do with [fiancée] Samantha, of course. It’s got a lot to do with Dave. With Dave coming onboard, I knew we weren’t going to come out of the gate right away and win.”
Following a rough end to the 2009 season with then-crew chief Steve Addington, few expected Busch to have the patience needed to work with a new crew chief like Rogers. As someone who had never called the shots for a Cup team until the end of last year, Rogers knew he had his work cut out for him. Yet, through it all, these two have been able to come together with a focus on winning races and contending for the championship – something Busch expects to do.
Now the team is starting to see the results they are used to. Busch has a smile on his face and the team has confidence and momentum on their side. Saturday’s win propelled the team to third in the series standings behind Harvick and four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. If Busch can maintain this new level of maturity and bring the ‘new Kyle’ to the track each weekend this team will be a serious threat for the title.
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