Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kyle Busch dominates Food City 500

So much for wishful thinking.

A Busch did visit Victory Lane on Sunday at Bristol, as Kyle Busch dominated the Food City 500 for his second win of the season. It also keeps the family's win streak intact, giving the Busch brothers the last three Sprint Cup wins.

The win was redemption of a sort for Busch, who dominated the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, only to finish sixth after his crew made a mistake and let a tire get away on the final pit stop. Busch was overly critical of the team ("screaming "Y'all suck!" over the radio after the race), but that did little to affect the No. 18 team's effort on Sunday, as they got Busch out front on the final stop and the driver did the rest.

I know a lot of fans came into the 2009 season hoping Busch would have a letdown, that last year's eight-win campaign was a flash in the pan. After Busch wrecked at Daytona, that looked to be the case. But now, Busch is picking up where he left off before the Chase last season, and I think the fans better prepare themselves for more of the same.

Like Busch or not (and a lot of people don't) ... he's for real. For whatever reason, Busch works so much better at Joe Gibbs Racing with crew chief Steve Addington than he ever did at Hendrick Motorsports with Alan Gustafson. Then again, the atmosphere at Hendrick was night-and-day from JGR, which is used to temperamental drivers after the likes of Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.

Give Joe Gibbs credit for a lot of things -- three Super Bowl trophies, three Sprint Cup championships -- the man is a master of dealing with people and massaging personalities.

Can Busch be more of a title threat this year? All signs point to yes; last year's dive-bomb in the Chase wasn't Busch's fault. Mechanical failures happen, sometimes a car just breaks. No reason, no fault of the team.

People call Busch's performance in the Chase last season a choke-job, which isn't entirely accurate. Sure, Busch could've handled it all better, and I think he ran the last few races accordingly, but I wouldn't say he choked.

And, as Darrell Waltrip says, sometimes you have to lose a championship in order to learn how to win one. Jimmie Johnson finished second in the standings twice (in 2003 and 2004) before winning three in a row.

I won't come right out and say Busch will win the championship -- there's still a lot of racing to be done, and anything can happen between now and Homestead -- but to outright dismiss him out of wishful thinking would be foolish at best.

Dangerous at worst. Like it or not, here comes Wild Thing.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500
1. Kyle Busch**
2. Denny Hamlin*
3. Jimmie Johnson*
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Mark Martin*
7. Ryan Newman*
8. Jeff Burton
9. Juan Pablo Montoya
10. Marcos Ambrose
11. Kurt Busch
12. David Reutimann*
13. Clint Bowyer
14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
15. Carl Edwards
16. A.J. Allmendinger
17. Tony Stewart
18. Travis Kvapil
19. David Stremme
20. Elliott Sadler
21. Robby Gordon
22. Bobby Labonte
23. Reed Sorenson
24. Casey Mears
25. Paul Menard
26. Martin Truex Jr.
27. David Ragan
28. Scott Speed
29. Brian Vickers
30. Kevin Harvick
31. Sam Hornish Jr.
32. Michael Waltrip*
33. Matt Kenseth
34. John Andretti
35. Aric Almirola
36. David Gilliland
37. Jamie McMurray
38. Joey Logano
39. Greg Biffle
40. Sterling Marlin
41. Joe Nemechek
42. Todd Bodine
43. Dave Blaney

*led a lap (5 bonus points)
**led most laps *5 more bonus points)

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