- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
1 And your 2008 Cup champion will be...?
The biggest threat Busch might face in the second half is a serious case of burnout. Besides his Cup races, he has run a full schedule in the Nationwide Series and driven in eight of the first 10 Craftsmen Truck events as well. His 11 wins across the three circuits are just three off the alltime record set by Kevin Harvick in 2006, but such relentless racing (and the travel involved) has taken a toll. Last month Busch ran races in each of the series in a single weekend, and in the process showed why most of the top Cup drivers eschew the practice. On Friday, June 6, he finished second in a truck race at Texas. The next night he ran 20th in a Nationwide race at Nashville. And on Sunday he ended up last in the Cup race at Pocono.
The following week Busch announced that he would not continue a full campaign for the Nationwide title, saying, "We are just going to have fun now and win the races and not stress."
The prospect of a rested and focused Kyle Busch should really stress the rest of the Cup contenders.
2 Will this be the final season for Tony Stewart at Joe Gibbs Racing?
3 What's the problem at Penske?
But since Daytona the team has sunk into mediocrity, beset by inconsistency and engine problems. Even after a lucky win in the rain-shortened New Hampshire race last Sunday, Busch ranks only 18th in points. Newman hasn't finished better than fourth since his Daytona win and is mired in 15th place. Rookie Sam Hornish Jr., who switched from Penske's IndyCar team last winter, ranks 33rd.
Newman, who has had engines fail in two races, recently told SI.com that his mechanical difficulties have him thinking about leaving Penske when the season is over. "The performance of our team and [the Penske] organization will make or break my position," he said.
According to Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing, the problem isn't just the engines. "We're behind on what we do relative to the geometry of these cars," he says. "The guys who've had winning streaks this year—Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne—each of them found something before anybody else. These cars are so similar, a small change gives you a big advantage."
4 TV ratings are up, but attendance is down. What's going on?