HOT: Kyle Busch won two races over the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, grabbing yet another weekend sweep. Nothing new to see here, right?
If you've missed it, Kyle Busch is suddenly on a tear again in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Texas, where Busch led 49 percent of every lap contested over the weekend, was merely a microcosm of how good he's been and potentially how good this season can be.
With wins in two of the last three Cup races, Busch now has five consecutive top-5 finishes for the first time in his now 300-start Cup career. He's rocketed 30 spots in the point standings in that time to third, 18 points back of Jimmie Johnson.
On the Nationwide Series side, he's won four of the series' six races this season.
Everything, from cars to pit stops, is clicking for Busch. Best of all? It's all happening consistently, and without Busch needing crafty pit calls or unusual strategy. No, Busch is just flat out beating people all of a sudden, and doing it consistently.
[Related: Kyle Busch sports impressive sweep at Texas]
It's the second part that has haunted Busch the most since his embarrassing swing and miss at the 2008 Sprint Cup title. Whether done in by mechanical or mental woes, we've seen extended flashes of brilliance from Busch come crashing down before. That history makes Busch's current effort that much more interesting to watch.
There are signs that Busch might be putting everything together for a solid run at the crapshoot that is NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff run. Team owner Joe Gibbs said he saw it start with Busch's disappointments in 2012.
"Kyle probably had some of the most bitter disappointments, I think, that's happened to us in 22 years," Gibbs said. "We missed the Chase. We had Watkins Glen won, go to the last lap and get in somebody else's oil. We had some issues mechanically during the year that cost us. I think last year at the end of the year, Kyle really handled all of those things about as good as you could handle them. I think it showed real maturity, and I think that kind of set the course for this year, really."
Busch's two wins early in the year also will likely take pressure off the No. 18 team, as they make him a virtual lock for the Chase. That makes him a little more immune to potential engine troubles like the ones that haunted his 2012 campaign. Engine supplier Toyota Racing Development has passed tough tests like Texas and Auto Club Speedway with flying colors after disappointments at Daytona.
Don't forget the finish Busch had in 2012, either. Aside from crashing from the lead in Kansas and a poor showing at New Hamsphire last fall, Busch scored top-10 finishes in eight of the final ten races.
There are plenty of ways for things to go downhill from here for Kyle Busch. It's hard, especially after Texas, to see how they will.
HOT: At one point Saturday night, the only Fords in the top-10 were those from Richard Petty Motorsports. But Aric Almirola wound up seventh and Marcos Ambrose eventually crashed, meaning both were behind Greg Biffle (3rd) and Carl Edwards (4th) at the checkered flag. That finish, after Fords led just 14 laps in the season's first two intermediate track races, has to be a shot in the arm as they head for another 1.5-mile track Sunday at Kansas.
NEUTRAL:: I'm sure it was tough for Martin Truex Jr. to finish second again. He's desperate for a win, especially after his Chase-qualifying effort a year ago. Truex, though, needed his second-place run nearly as badly. Coming to Texas, Truex was 25th in points with three finishes of 24th or worse in the season's first six races. Suddenly, he's up to 16th and returning the site of a race he should've won a year ago.
Of course, he'll probably lose some of that ground after his No. 56 was found to be too low in post-race inspection. At least he spared us the debate if NASCAR should allow drivers to keep wins with an illegal car.
Oh, and he found out Monday he won't be fined for the actions.
[Related: Did someone snitch on Brad Keselowski?]
NOT: Aside from FOX completely botching the story in their pre-race show, I will wonder this: why did NASCAR not find Penske Racing's apparent rear-end violations sooner? Typically, major discrepancies – and teams dashing to get cars on track before the race starts qualifies as a major discrepancy – are caught when the weekend starts. Just ask Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at Sonoma in 2007.
So what happened here? Did Penske change something drastic after qualifying? Or was Keselowski's assertion of a garage-area vendetta true?
NOT: Ryan Newman edged out a top-10 after running around 17th most of night Saturday, and that was the only bright spot for Stewart-Haas Racing. That whole team is struggling right now, and you have to wonder when they'll get the ship righted.
NEUTRAL:: Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing have now dealt with fuel issues two races in a row. But before that? Busch looked like he might be a worthy adversary to his brother.
NOT: Jeff Burton wasn't pleased with spotter Keith Barnwell after crashing Saturday night, and he had every right to be upset. Barnwell, a former spotter for Martin Truex Jr., didn't alert Burton in time to Marcos Ambrose's spin on lap 281 and Burton spun after making contact with Mark Martin. A possible top-10 run for the No. 31 team instead became a 23rd. Burton has just one finish better than 17th this season.
HOT: Brian Vickers isn't making any friends on the track, but he's certainly impressing future suitors and sponsors. An eighth-place run Saturday at Texas while subbing for Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 gave Vickers his second Sprint Cup top-10 in just three races this year. Among those with fewer top-10 finishes despite four more starts? Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
NOT: Between Jeff Gordon's broken left front hub and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s mistake in failing to switch batteries, Hendrick Motorsports left TMS with a lot of feelings of what could have been.
NOT: Regardless of a race sponsor, people shouldn't face or be a part of tragedy like Texas Motor Speedway experienced late Saturday night. There are a host of hot button issues involved in the incident that resulted in a man taking his own life in the TMS infield. My only comment is this: look out for you and yours, and don't be afraid to extend a hand to those who need it. We'll all be better off.
The Stenica Showdown Cup!
We're keeping track each week of how NASCAR's most important (only?) competitive couple does against one another. This is a best-of-36 race, with the highest-finishing Sprint Cup result between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. each week earning a point. Other points may be earned for various and completely inane reasons along the way (suggestions accepted), and the game ends if the couple uncouples.
1st - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 5 points (40th at Texas)
2nd - Danica Patrick., 4 points (28th at Texas)
Two straight weeks, two straight wins for Danica. Alas, it's all for naught. Point also this week to Stenhouse for getting his city slicker girlfriend to wear real boots (no spurs, though) and a shiny belt buckle. Barbara Mandrell would be just tickled.
Next up: Kansas! Join us Sunday on the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Live Chat at 1 p.m. ET.
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