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Busch Closes Record-Breaking Season at Homestead

  • Nov 24, 2004

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 24, 2004) – In a year that saw Kyle Busch tie or break almost every NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie record in existence, it seems only fitting the 19-year-old would end his remarkable season by again rewriting history.

With their third-place finish in Saturday’s 300-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch and his No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew not only established a new rookie mark for most top-10 finishes in a season (22), but also tied Greg Biffle’s 2001 record of top-five finishes by a first-year driver (16).

Had Saturday’s race featured longer periods of green-flag racing, Busch might well have scored his sixth win of 2004, which would have set yet another record.  Instead, the event was marred by 12 caution periods, including four in the last 30 laps.

For Busch, whose No. 5 Lowe’s/Shop-Vac Chevrolet was better on longer runs, the frequent cautions prevented a sustained charge at race leaders Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray in the closing laps.  Charging hard, Busch crossed the finish line in third position.

“All race long we were really, really loose and we were just trying to overcome that and tried a few things to fix it,” Busch said.  “We just kept plugging away at it and we got pretty close there at the end.  We had a pretty good car on the long run.  It was really good, (but the car’s handling) wouldn’t come in (until) probably about Lap 30 or so on a long run.

“The last couple of restarts, I wish those cautions weren’t coming out, because we had such a good car on the long runs we probably could have caught those guys and outraced them.

“It was just great to come out of here with a third-place finish.”

With five victories, five pole positions, 22 top-10 finishes and 16 top-fives, the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports crew closed out the year with a second-place showing in the standings, earning Busch the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year award.

“If you just look at the results and all the things that happened to us this year, it had been a pretty great season,” Busch said.  “We’ve had five wins, five poles and as many top-fives and top-10s as (there’s ever been for a rookie).  We’ve had a lot of fun this year.”

Busch was quick to credit crew chief Lance McGrew and the Lowe’s team for his success.

“Lance and I have really grown to know each other and learn each other,” he said.  “The whole team has been together for a long time and they’ve always jelled really well, so to bring in a Raybestos Rookie and go out there and challenge for the championship and end up just second-best by only a little bit—we (are) still real proud of the way that everything has gone this year.”

In the Homestead post-race press conference, McGrew was asked for his thoughts on Busch winning the Rookie of the Year crown.

“It’s pretty awesome,” McGrew said.  “It’s an awesome accomplishment for Kyle.  I sure would have liked to have won another race to break Biffle’s win record, but he did that after he was (a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) champion.  For a 19-year old kid, (Kyle’s) awesome.”

Before the season, McGrew wasn’t so sure a rookie making a run at the championship was possible.

“If you would have asked me before Daytona, I probably would have said, ‘Nah, we’ll finish in the top five.  We’ll win a race or two,’” McGrew said.  “But five (wins), five poles?  I mean, what can you say?  It’s awesome.”

In the final tally, Busch tied or broke no fewer than eight Busch Series Raybestos Rookie records, including:

- Highest points finish (second).
- Most pole positions (five).
- Most top-10 finishes (22).
- Most championship points (4,943).
- Most laps led (1,104).
- Most races led (21).
- Most wins (five, tied with Greg Biffle, 2001).
- Most top-five finishes (16, tied with Greg Biffle, 2001).

Busch will next try to win the 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in NASCAR’s upper echelon—the NEXTEL Cup Series—as he moves over to drive the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolets for Hendrick Motorsports next season.

“You can’t (move to the NEXTEL Cup Series) with any better team (than Hendrick Motorsports),” Busch said.  “We have Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and Brian Vickers, who (was) a Raybestos Rookie this year doing what he did.  And of course Terry Labonte, who’s always been here and been doing an awesome job.

“I’m excited for things to come.  We’ve had a really good year this year, if you look back on it and all the things that we’ve done.  I look forward to what we can do next year, and hopefully we can accomplish some great things, and hopefully nothing is too big for us to overcome.”

The No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew will use its off-season to prepare for the 2005 NASCAR Busch Series schedule, which will kick off at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February.  An announcement on who will be behind the wheel of the 2005 Lowe’s Chevrolets is expected in the near future.

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