DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2006) – Kyle Busch doesn’t put much stock in the notion of a sophomore slump, because, he says, “we had a ‘freshman jinx’ as far as I could tell.” And while winning twice and running away with the 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year award would hardly seem to equal a jinxed year, the kid has a point. In addition to those two wins, the first of which made him the youngest driver to ever win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race (20 years, 4 months, 2 days), Busch managed another 11 top-10 finishes. In his other 23 races, the driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet finished 25th or worse 16 times. At least a few of those poor finishes had to have been the result of some bad luck, right? If even half were caused by Busch’s own inexperience, then look out, because Busch is now a year older and wiser. “I learned the hard way that it’s a lot better to struggle along in a 20th-place car than to try to finish top-10, wreck the thing and finish 40th,” he said. “Sometimes you have to wait on the car, see how the race is flowing and be patient.” If Busch can put his money where his mouth is, he’s almost certain to challenge for the Chase. Consider that he crashed out of all four plate races in 2005 -- finishing 38th, 41st, 31st and 33rd -- earning a total of just 223 points. It’s true that plate racing is a roll of the dice, but had Busch been able to make each of those a 20th-place finish, he’d have earned perhaps another 200 points and finished as high as 15th in the standings (he finished 20th). Add in a bit of good luck and who knows how things might have gone in ‘05? Not surprisingly, plate racing isn’t Busch’s favorite form of racing. “I went 0-for-4 last year, crashing out of all of them,” he said. “Or maybe that’s 4-for-4? I just want to go to Daytona, survive it and start out fresh at California.” But if preseason preparations at Daytona are any indication, then Busch may well be setting his sights a bit too low: he was quickest overall on Tuesday on the second day of testing this week.