Hendrick Motorsports

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Busch Quickly Evolves Into a Contender

If it’s true that some of the finer things in life improve with age, then Kyle Busch figures to be a masterpiece in another few years. In the span of little more than 50 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races, the just-turned 21-year-old driver has, to all appearances, synthesized lessons that the majority of professional racers never learn. In fewer than two full seasons, Busch has evolved from exuberant youth to seasoned veteran who can legitimately consider himself a threat to win the championship.

“It’s unbelievable, at his age, how he’s matured, how quickly he’s matured,” says Rick Hendrick, owner of Busch’s No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet. “We’ve known since the first time he sat down in Busch car—he’s always amazed us with the amount of talent he’s had.”

The recent win in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300, the third win of Busch’s career, was his fifth top-five finish in his last 10 races and capped a three-week stretch that saw him finish second, third and first. Not as flashy but arguably more important in the grander scheme of NASCAR things, the mini-streak vaulted Busch from eighth overall to fourth, inviting assessment of how far he’s come how quickly.

Before this, his second season, began, Busch admitted to reporters that there were times in 2005 when his impatience and frustration induced him to do things on the track that ultimately did him and his team more harm than good. He had, he assured reporters, learned his lesson—something many have said but few have demonstrated. That Busch has done so almost in spite of his fiery disposition makes what he’s achieved that much more impressive.

“I would have to say from the beginning of the year, I’ve been more conscious of trying to points race,” he said, “trying to put my car in the right spot, not trying to overdrive it. Last week I overdrove it in qualifying and we ended up 23rd instead of maybe in the top 10.

“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing,” Busch continued. “If we keep executing the way we need to and just run our own race and making our own luck, you can set your own destiny. And that’s what we’ve been working on, and trying to make sure that we finish the way we need to.” 

Busch’s use of the word need is somewhat telling, in that it demonstrates an understanding that there are responsibilities that come with driving a car like the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet. In short, to be successful in NASCAR these days, you’d better be able to grow up quickly, which Busch certainly has.

“He’s just learned in a hurry,” says Hendrick. “We have to remind him sometimes, but he’s done a super job. Guys come along who can race, but don’t know how to win and not burn up their equipment, guys who don’t know how to size people up and take care of business.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody pick it up that quick.  He’s done a phenomenal job.”