Hendrick Motorsports

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Kyle Busch: Bristol a sign of things to come for Busch team

“We had a great race car today,” said Kyle Busch. “Strong from the get-go.”

Busch offers a short and sweet summation, yet a perfect assessment of what could truly be called the first really good day of the 20-year-old’s 2006 NASCAR Busch Series season.

Neither rain nor sleet nor a whole bunch of snow could deter Busch from his rounds in Saturday’s Sharpie Mini 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, and he carried the No. 5 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS from a starting position of 20th to Victory Lane.

“We just bided our time all day,” Busch said. “Just hoped for the best, tried to make some clean passes getting through traffic throughout the race. We were able to do that relatively well and be there at the end. I don’t think I’ve heard patience more times [over the radio] in my career than I did today.”

It’s a far cry from recent weeks, when Busch has been forced to answer questions about what went wrong rather than what went right. A season that began with high hopes for a Busch Series title got off to rather pedestrian start: A disappointing 25th at Daytona followed by finishes of 23rd, seventh, 19th and 40th. Even the lone bright spot, a seventh in Mexico, has its cloud. If not for some late-race contact that spun him out when he was running second, Busch might well have won.

The rough start put Busch 18th in the Busch Series standings heading into Saturday’s race.

“We haven’t had a really good start to the season,” Busch said Saturday. “This is hopefully the turnaround point for our season. We need to get back up into the top-10 for the championship; we need to be able to run for the championship.”

That whole championship thing might be a ways off yet, but at least Busch and the No. 5 Lowe’s team are closer to that immediate goal: Saturday’s win moved him to 14th in the standings. The top-10 is just another 26 points away.

Despite the difficulties of the early season, the No. 5 Lowe’s team has reason to feel plenty good about itself just about now. True, a lot of organizations would be happy to be sitting 14th after five races and, indeed, the Hendrick team likely would have been happy to finish 14th in 2005. But this year, with a set lineup of driver and crew chief for a full schedule, the bar has been raised just a bit higher.

“This whole Lowe’s team is in a massive rebuilding phase and I think this is the first stone of really good foundation,” says first-year crew chief Chad Walter. “From where we were at November 20th to where we are March 25th, I feel really good for [everybody].”

Add a couple more solid stones to that foundation—some of Busch’s favorite tracks are coming up on the schedule—and the No. 5 Lowe’s Chevrolet might well be sitting in the catbird seat.