Thoughts, observations and a few questions following the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway:
• Kyle Busch not only had the fastest car Saturday night, but he was the most willing to wheel it around the sleek surface at Darlington. While his crew begged him to pull on the reins, he did what he always does – stayed on top of the wheel and drove away from everyone else.
Maybe he knows something the rest of us don't: that he's actually better than we think he is.
• You gotta admit, Busch's antics are entertaining. First he wiped a tear from his eye as he got booed during driver introductions. Then, after winning, he offered up his now signature bow, which rivals Carl Edwards' backflip and Tony Stewart's fence climb as the best victory celebration.
• Don't forget, this being Busch's third win of the season means he's got a 30-point bonus heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and he's probably not done winning yet.
• Once again Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a solid run (fourth) but comes home without a win. If he had won in the last dozen or so races, we'd be talking about what a phenomenal season he's having. And while we are doing that, there is a lot of focus on the winless streak. It's going to continue for at least another two weeks, but who cares? He's third in the points. Ryan Newman can't say that.
• It seems like every week there is a not-so-usual suspect running up front through the middle portion of the race, only they aren't there in the end. Saturday night, David Ragan (fifth), Dave Blaney (seventh) and Travis Kvapil (ninth) not only ran with the big boys but finished with them.
I've always thought that Blaney could compete if given the right equipment.
The same goes for Kvapil, who is a potential Cup winner. He has to beg for sponsors and yet he's 18th in the standings. What gives?
And don't look now, but Ragan is 12th in the standings. Can he actually make the Chase?
• Ragan will be the next first-time winner in Cup racing.
• If anyone needed a good finish it was Matt Kenseth, and for part of the night it looked like he'd have yet another disappointing night when he thought he had a loose tire. But Kenseth persevered, finished sixth and, in the process, kept his Chase hopes alive.
Don't count him out, yet. Yes, he's 20th in the standings, and yes, he has a lot of good drivers ahead of him, but remember, only two drivers have qualified for the Chase every year, and one of those is Kenseth.
• That might be the best 21st-place finish of Stewart's career. Wrecked before the race was two laps old, Stewart could have given up. Instead, he battled all the way back from two laps down and if he had gotten a late caution, definitely would have finished in the top 15.
• Think Sam Hornish Jr. wishes he were in Indianapolis? In two weeks, while his buddies are racing for the Borg-Warner trophy, he'll be in Charlotte trying to stay on the lead lap. He's gone from totally chic to totally geek.
• It's uncanny what the No. 20 team and Joe Gibbs Racing has been able to do in the Nationwide Series. The 20 team, with Dave Rogers as crew chief, has won four races in a row with three different drivers – Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and, most recently, Tony Stewart – while JGR has swept the last six races of the series. Now that's domination.
The all-star race is on deck, and I for one am looking forward to the burnout contest. Sure, it's a little contrived, kind of like the slam dunk contest, but it's one more thing for the fans to look forward to.
Enjoy it, and enjoy giving Kyle Busch the business.
- Kyle Busch
- Darlington Raceway