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As Busch chases sweeps, absence of marquee win lingers

June 03, 2014, Holly Cain,

Cain: Don't diminish 29-year-old's prolific performance

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Kyle Busch was dejected and disappointed as he left his mangled No. 18 M&M's Toyota in the Dover International Speedway garage and walked quickly and deliberately to his motorhome with a trail of reporters and cameramen in his wake.

Mostly though, Busch was just downright mad.

He had nothing to say -- or at least nothing safe for print or TV -- after a wreck only a quarter of the way through Sunday's FedEx 400 at the Monster Mile derailed his shot at a tripleheader weekend sweep.


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He had led 81 of the first 125 laps when, while racing at the front of the field with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, Busch's car got squeezed into the wall by Bowyer -- apparently an honest mistake by Bowyer's spotter who thought the cars were clear of one another.

The how or why didn't matter to Busch. For him it's all about the win.

And no one has won more NASCAR national series races than Busch in the last five years.

No active driver has won more NASCAR national series races. Period.

Busch acknowledged being energized by the opportunity to add to his entry already in the history books with a second three-race national series sweep at Dover. He is already the only driver in NASCAR history to do so, collecting a trio of trophies at Bristol in 2010.

But, he explained, he really doesn't think in terms of a "sweep" but instead looks at each race individually. If he's in it, he wants to win it. One, two or three in a weekend, it doesn't matter. And if there are three races going on at a track, "and I only run one, it feels like a complete waste of time."

"The pure joy of winning is what I'm there for,'' Busch said. "If I'm going to participate and race I'd rather be winning than finish second or third and being frustrated or upset.''

After winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover on Friday and then the NASCAR Nationwide Series race there Saturday, Busch spoke presciently about his chances of third trip to Victory Lane.

"If there's ever the opportunity where they reverse the weekend and run the Truck race, then the Cup race and then the Nationwide race, I might have a shot at it," Busch said smiling. "It seems the last one (Cup race) is always the hardest one and that's just due to the competition. You've got the best of the best to deal with whether it's drivers, cars or crew chiefs."

You're not going to win them all, but Busch is your best bet to win them all in a single race weekend, competing as an owner-driver in the Camping World Truck Series and a part-time participant in the Nationwide Series to go along with his full-time job with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

His Truck and Nationwide series victories this weekend give him a combined 134 national series wins -- 29 in Sprint Cup, a record 66 in Nationwide and 39 in the Camping World Truck Series.

Gordon is next closest with 94 national victories -- the vast majority of those (89) coming in the Cup ranks.

It's really an amazing and often overlooked accomplishment for Busch, who at only 29 years old could easily win more than 200 national series races at this pace. On Sunday, his time out front made him only the 15th driver in NASCAR history to lead 10,000 laps in a Cup career.

And yet Busch is aware that his impressive victory tally without a trophy in one of the sport's biggest events somehow lessens his accomplishment in others' eyes.

"Have you read your message boards?," Busch asked rhetorically this past weekend. "For what I've accomplished so far in my career, (the Bristol triple) ranks pretty high, probably first. That Bristol night race is notorious and I've won the Southern 500 at Darlington."

Then he smirked and shook his head.

"But I don't have a Daytona 500, I don't have a Coke 600, no All-Star Race, no Brickyard, so essentially I've got nothing on my resume. I've got 134 of 'em right now and none of 'em mean nothing.

"Hopefully the big ones will come."

In the meantime, his deep bows in front of the grandstand following a victory must feel so gratifying.

He's overcome a reputation of petulance, and fans aren't booing him as loudly anymore. For even those fans that don't consider him "their" driver have to concede Busch sure knows how to wheel a stock car.

"It's fun, I enjoy racing, that's what I'm here for,'' Busch said. "That's what I do. I know there are some naysayers who say I shouldn't be (in Truck and Nationwide series), but until the rules change -- and they have changed a few times to keep us away -- and yet I keep running.

"It's for the pure love of the sport that I want to be out there and as long as Monster Energy and ToyotaCare keep supporting me, we'll keep doing it as long as we can do it."


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