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Menzer: Busch has twice the fun

May 01, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com



Menzer: Busch has twice the fun
RICHMOND, Va. -- First win as Nationwide owner emotional, but winning as a driver more enjoyable

When car owner Joe Gibbs first reached Kyle Busch on Saturday following the Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway, he had a question.

"Is it more fun winning as an owner or a driver?" Gibbs said.

KBM in Nationwide

How team has fared in 2012
TrackStartFinish
Phoenix1411
Las Vegas2033
Bristol817
Fontana158
Texas*630
Richmond*101

And the answer?

"He was honest. He says as the driver," Gibbs said.

Busch had the unique and highly pleasurable honor to enjoy both experiences last weekend. On Saturday, he drove the No. 18 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series race; on Friday, he sat atop the pit box of the No. 54 Toyota fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports and watched big brother Kurt Busch drive to victory in the Nationwide Series.

"It was an awesome weekend all around," Kyle Busch said.

He completed it by sweeping to victory as the dominant cars of the day fell off in a swirl of controversy during the final 89 laps of the 400-lap event.

Jimmie Johnson looked strong in his No. 48 Chevrolet, but the best he could manage was a sixth-place finish after a crew member's pit-road miscue cost the team dearly. Tony Stewart, who led four times for a total of 118 laps in his No. 14 Chevy, held on for third after surrendering the lead to Busch on the final restart. Stewart complained bitterly afterward about the caution flag that preceded it. And Carl Edwards, who led five times for a race-high 206 laps, headed to the NASCAR hauler for answers after being forced to settle for 10th -- the result of being penalized for jumping a restart on Lap 319 when he and Stewart were battling for the lead.

And Busch? He stayed calm all day and waited patiently for his chance. He didn't panic, much like he hadn't panicked about a slow start to his 2012 season. Prior to Saturday, he was mired in 13th in the points standings after four finishes of 17th or worse during the first eight races.

"Hats off to Kyle," crew chief Dave Rogers said. "I think the key to the game [Saturday] was Kyle kept us in it all race. He never got frustrated or discouraged."

Good mood food

Maybe Busch was still so giddy over Friday's success that it carried over to Saturday.

He admitted that Friday night's win for Kurt -- the first Nationwide win in KBM's brief history -- was something special, and it showed afterward when Kyle was nearly moved to tears. Kurt Busch beat Denny Hamlin to the start-finish line by 0.062 second to take the victory in dramatic fashion.

"This is the most emotional I've ever been for a win," Kyle said afterward. "Man, this is so cool. When you're behind the wheel, it's a lot easier to do."

After getting behind the wheel Saturday, he again was asked to reflect on what had transpired a night earlier.

"I think the biggest thing about Friday night was just that it's something that I'm trying to build and make successful, and it's got my name on it, so we're doing the best we can with the people we have and with what we're doing there," said Busch, who will celebrate his 27th birthday Wednesday. "You know, it's just a matter of working through the pitfalls sometimes and working through the challenges that lie ahead.

"Joe told me before I got going [as owner], Dave told me before I got going, what all it was going to entail and all the hard work it was going to take. Just knowing how hard we've worked, to see all of that come together for not only myself but for [wife] Samantha and [KBM general manager] Rick Ren and all the people who pour their heart and soul into that place, it's pretty special."

Priorities

This is the year, of course, that Busch cut back on racing in other series to focus on his Cup efforts. For all that he has accomplished in racing as a driver -- his 105 combined wins across the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series rank third all-time behind only Hall of Famers Richard Petty and David Pearson, and he won the 2009 Nationwide championship -- he's never come all that close to winning the Cup title that defines great drivers the most.

Busch's best Cup finish is fifth, accomplished in 2007 during his final season of driving for Hendrick Motorsports. His best finish despite winning a slew of races during the past four-plus seasons at JGR is eighth in 2010.

So he said he's careful not to let his ownership duties on the KBM side consume him. He knows that Joe and J.D. Gibbs, Joe's son who oversees JGR's day-to-day operations, consented to let him field Nationwide teams only on these certain terms, including letting go of his obsession to run as many races as he could as a driver in both of the other series.

"I haven't spent a lot of time [at the KBM shop] this year, honestly," Busch said. "I've been in Dave [Rogers'] office a lot. I know where my priorities lie.

"It's just cool to see KBM get its first [Nationwide] win, hopefully the first of many. Joe [Gibbs] hopes not. But it'll be fun. It's a fun little rivalry we've got going on now."

Gibbs forced a smile at that. He's willing to give in to that friendly little ownership rivalry in the Nationwide Series if it helps get the No. 18 team closer to a championship on the Cup side.

Having been able to experience both sides in a single weekend, Busch said, "It's way harder to win as an owner, for sure. I'm standing there on the pit wall and I've got no control over what's going. I'm ready to come on the radio with Kurt and tell him what all he needs to be doing."

Knowing the frequently volatile relationship of that sibling rivalry, which is an altogether different animal, you have to wonder how that would have gone over. But Gibbs knows the feeling. He experienced the same temptation Saturday night, and he's not even a driver.

"I'm glad Joe's [radio] buttons broke," added Kyle, grinning like the two-time winner he was on the weekend.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.