BRISTOL, TENN._ To say Joe Gibbs Racing is not where they would like to be four races into the 2010 Sprint Cup season is a fairly safe assumption. In particular, Kyle Busch’s season has yet to live up to expectations. The No. 18 team has yet to finish in the top-10, is 15th in the standings and failed to break into the top-20 in any of the practice sessions this weekend in Bristol. A three time winner at the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile,’ Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers were left searching for answers before Sunday’s 500-lap event.
When the team unloaded Friday they were off the mark by quite a bit. Busch was 38th in the opening practice session, qualified 38th, was 37th in Saturday’s first practice and improved to 21st in final practice. Not exactly the type of performance you would expect from the team that swept the Bristol events last season.
“Everyone thinks they have it figured out, but the proof is in the results and, obviously, [Friday] we didn’t have it figured out,” Rogers said. “We came with this setup that Steve [Addington] had run in the past that was really fast. It was really loose. We really thought the track would come to us, so we kind of sat on hands and the track never came to us.”
Rogers took over atop the pit box of the No. 18 team at Texas in November after Busch failed to make the Chase with crew chief Steve Addington. Since that time, Busch’s best finish has been an 8th in the season-finale in Homestead and his average finish is 14th.
Not having the type of results they expected, Rogers explained the team is working on a number of things to get better. Specifically, on their mile-and-a-half program they are working to improve the body and attitude and ride control, while the tire combination at Bristol simply caught them off guard. Other than that, Rogers says the chemistry on the team is great.
“Kyle is awesome,” Rogers said. “His attitude is fantastic, I couldn’t ask for anything better. Everybody warned about his short temper and his quick fuse, but he’s been great to work with, very patient. When we came into this deal nobody internally [at Joe Gibbs Racing] expected to win every race from the get go. We were trying to build a program, something like what Hendrick has built. They win week-in and week-out.
“That doesn’t happen overnight,” he went on to say. “If anyone thought it was going to happen overnight they were crazy. I think Kyle understands that, I understand that. It is frustrating we want to be running better than we’re running, but we’re not going to get rattled either. We’re just going to methodically work at it, chip away at it and improve our race cars and give Kyle a little bit better equipment to work with.”
If things do not start turning around for this organization, rough times could be ahead for Rogers and Busch. While his attitude has been “fantastic” so far, continued runs outside the top-10 may push this hot-tempered driver over the edge and looking for change. Always a formidable threat at Bristol, if Busch does not live up to expectations come Sunday, it could be a long season for the No. 18 team and Rogers in particular.
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