Kyle Busch has confidence back - and he's winning
(Eds: With AP Photos.)
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kyle Busch left little doubt his confidence is just fine during pre-race introductions at Bristol Motor Speedway, where the track allows drivers to say whatever they want to the crowd.
Most drivers play it safe by stating their name and hometowns, while others add a greeting to the crowd and maybe a little bit of personality.
Busch went all out beginning with the Nationwide Series race on Saturday when he grabbed the microphone and simply stated, "You know who I am.''
Arrogant? Sure. But he backed it up by grabbing his fifth Nationwide victory at Bristol, which tied him with Kevin Harvick for most in the series. Busch, by the way, has a series-record 53 wins, and two in the last four weeks after going winless last season.
He was even brasher the next day before the main event Sprint Cup race.
Grinning as he strutted down Bristol's version of the red carpet, Busch name-dropped the track's all-time winner: "I may not be no Darrell Waltrip, but I sure as heck don't need no introduction,'' before dropping the mic and walking off.
He came up short in his bid to sweep the weekend, but staged a wicked battle in the closing laps of the race to snag second-place from Brad Keselowski. He left Bristol with a win, a runner-up finish and a track record in Sprint Cup qualifying.
Not a bad day's work for a guy coming off the worst season of his career.
So what's changed? It could be something as simple as driving Joe Gibbs Racing cars again in the Nationwide Series.
"As far as last year goes, there was plenty of opportunities to win that just didn't come,'' Busch said. "For whatever reason, it was just a terrible year whether its luck related or whatever. This year driving JGR cars on Saturday and on Sunday, I think that's a benefit.''
It sure looks that way through the first month of the season.
A year ago, when Busch went winless in Nationwide for the first time since his 2003 debut, he drove all 22 races for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports. He came close to Victory Lane many times, but never made it all the way there.
The frustration spilled over to the Cup side, where he was in JGR cars but managed only one win - his lowest total since 2007 - and missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Back in JGR cars in the Nationwide Series this season, he's got two wins through four races and is running a lot better in Cup. He was in the top three in the Daytona 500 when his engine failed, finished fourth at Las Vegas, second at Bristol and goes to California this weekend ranked 10th in points.
"We've had really fast race cars everywhere we've gone so far,'' Busch said. "Fontana is another place where I've always fared well over the years, and I'm hoping we can finally get that victory we've been looking for this weekend.''
BRAD THE BLOGGER: Add blogging to Brad Keselowski's many roles.
As the outspoken reigning Sprint Cup champion, his new online outlet could get interesting.
Keselowski has joined the team of nine celebrity contributors to autoweek.com's 2013 motorsports section, which will feature this season blog items from drivers from NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, ALMS and Grand-AM.
"NASCAR is a big part of my life, I love talking about it and sharing my stories,'' said Keselowski. "When they asked me to add my own personal take on NASCAR to their site, I jumped at the opportunity.''
Autoweek's driver lineup also includes IndyCar's Will Power and Graham Rahal; NHRA's Bob Tasca III, John Force, Courtney Force and Robert Hight; Grand-Am champion Scott Pruett; and Tommy Milner of ALMS.
Keselowski isn't shy about voicing his opinion, particularly on Twitter, where he regularly engages with fans and media. His thoughts on fuel injection during a 2011 appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame earned him a fine from NASCAR, and his opinions on where NASCAR is headed during an interview with USA Today last month led to a meeting with NASCAR chairman Brian France and International Speedway Corp. chairwoman Lesa France Kennedy.
CASSILL SUING: Landon Cassill has sued BK Racing over alleged unpaid wages from last season and for waiting too long to tell him he would not be back with the team this year.
Cassill filed suit in North Carolina Superior Court in Charlotte asking for $205,000 in back salary and an unspecified amount of money against BK Racing and owner Ron Devine because the team did not tell him until mid-January he wasn't needed for the 2013 season.
"I really hated to go the legal route, but at the end of the day I'm ultimately asking to be paid what I earned last season,'' Cassill said in a statement. "I was excited to race for BK in 2013 and was disappointed when my contract was not renewed for this season.''
Cassill, who finished 31st in points last season with BK, has landed a part-time ride with Circle Sport.
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