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Busch, Hamlin running strong heading into Dover

June 03, 2012, Viv Bernstein, Special to NASCAR.COM,

DOVER, Del. -- Both JGR drivers have four top-fives in past five races but want more victories

It is hard to imagine Kyle Busch doing anything quietly. But his rise in the Sprint Cup standings in the past month has been quick, steady and largely under the NASCAR radar.

For those who haven't noticed amid the fanfare of team owner Rick Hendrick's 200th victory and Danica Patrick's back-to-back Cup runs, Busch has climbed from 16th to eighth in the past five weeks. During that stretch he has four top-five finishes in a row and five top-10s going into Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway.

"We're really happy that we're able to carry our consistency and continue to run well, but you're frustrated in the fact that you're not able to break through. We haven't had that special something in order to be a little bit more competitive to be a winner. "


Not that he's completely satisfied.

"We're really happy that we're able to carry our consistency and continue to run well, but you're frustrated in the fact that you're not able to break through," Busch said Saturday after qualifying eighth for Sunday's race. "We haven't had that special something in order to be a little bit more competitive to be a winner. We're a contender each and every week, but we want to be a winner.

"It's not a one-week thing. It's definitely something that we're going to have to continue to work toward over time."

Busch isn't the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver who is on a top-five run. Denny Hamlin has four top-fives in the past five races and is third in the standings going into Sunday's race.

But like Busch, Hamlin believes there is more work to be done.

"We are getting there,'' he said. "I'd say we are 75 percent of where we were as far as our strength to the field in 2010 to right now. I think we've identified the areas in which we need to improve that 25 percent. Everyone is going to work, everything is going well right now. There's really nothing in our outlook that looks grim in the sense of knowing that we're going to have good cars coming up here. Each and every week we're going to have a better car going to the race track. Everything looks good and I feel like there's no reason why we can't have four or five wins before we even get to the Chase."

Hamlin, looking to get back to the form he showed in 2010 when he nearly won the title, has two wins this season including a victory at Kansas that began his run of top-fives. Busch has one win, his coming at Richmond April 28. He was second at Talladega, fourth at Darlington and third at Charlotte.

Busch is showing the kind of consistency that can win championships, if he can keep it up. Of course, that's always been the question with Busch. He has been dominant at times in the spring, but a mix of bad breaks, less than dominant runs or bad behavior have helped sink Busch annually in the Chase. He has made the field in five of the past six seasons, but has never finished better than fifth. That was with Hendrick Motorsports in 2007 before joining Joe Gibbs Racing. Even in 2008, when he won eight races, Busch slipped to 10th in the Chase.

Last season, Busch was suspended a race during the Chase after wrecking Ron Hornaday during a Camping World Truck Series race in November. But that wasn't the only problem for Busch in last year's Chase.

"I think we had a solid car last year and I think we got a little stagnant at the end of the year,'' crew chief Dave Rogers said. "I think it showed up in the Chase. So this year we took a different approach and said 'Let's not get stagnant, let's get out of the box and let's try some things.' And that's exactly what we did.

"And even here at Dover, lap tracker says we're off further than we used to be at Dover, but we're trying something new. We're trying to keep ourselves in a good points position, but we're trying to learn all we can leading up to the Chase instead of simply relying on last year's notes."

Busch is doing his part. He has stopped running regularly in the Camping World Truck Series to focus more on his Cup program, although he is still running a partial Nationwide Series schedule with his Kyle Busch Motorsports race car.

"It's allowed me to be a little bit more focused on the Cup stuff, just being able to spend more time in the hauler,'' Busch said. "Still, like during a Truck race or Nationwide race, I'm typically out there sitting on pit road or on the box or something like that. To me, it's almost, you might as well be out there."

Of course, the limited schedule has also limited Busch's opportunities for confrontations on the track and off. Busch has not stirred that pot this season, and that may be why he's under the radar as well. But Busch doesn't believe that's fair.

"It's really, really frustrating the fact that you run so well during the races and finish in the top five and you should be prone to getting a post-race television interview, but I haven't had one yet this year,'' he said. "They've always canceled mine out. That's the most disappointing fact that I see of our consistent runs that they don't give us TV time because we're not in enough drama."

Snubbed for good behavior? Busch isn't going to take that quietly.

Watch all of Joe Gibbs Racing's highlights from 2012: