Kyle Busch riding wave after victory at Texas

jutter@charlotteobserver.com April 14, 2013 

— The last big wave Kyle Busch caught in Texas was one of controversy.

Not so, this weekend.

In a dominating performance, Busch earned his second Sprint Cup Series victory in the past three races, holding off Martin Truex Jr. to win Saturday night’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The victory capped a near-perfect weekend for Busch, who won the pole for the Cup race and won the Nationwide Series race on Friday night after starting second.

“We’re riding a wave right now that’s 30-feet tall and ready to keep riding,” said Busch, who earned the 26th victory in his Cup career and improved to third in the series standings.

Busch hasn’t finished outside the top five in his past five races and with two victories already in hand this season, he is in strong position to secure at least a wild card spot in the Chase for the Cup.

“You have to be able to execute through the first 26 (races) and get yourself a playoff spot and be able to go battle with the rest of the guys to be able to win a championship,” Busch said.

“Right now, obviously, winning two races so far this year, you’d say that’s a lock. But anything can happen. We’ve still got some work to do to get better at some of the tracks that we did struggle at last year, and we know that.”

While Busch has enjoyed a great deal of success at Texas, particularly in Nationwide races, it was his actions in a Truck race less than two years ago that left perhaps his most memorable imprint on the Lone Star State.

Busch was parked by NASCAR for the rest of the weekend after he intentionally wrecked driver Ron Hornaday under caution in a Truck race at the track in November 2011.

The aftermath of that incident proved to be an important lesson learned for Busch. It also helped him deal with a difficult season in 2012, when he missed the Chase.

“I don’t know what it was, but there was a funk last year. We tried so hard to change the things that we were doing,” he said. “There was a stretch there where we thought finally things are headed in the right direction.

“We head to Charlotte and boom right after that, three DNFs in a row. You could never make up that ground that you kept losing with the bad races.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs certainly noticed a change in how Busch dealt with the disappointment.

“We missed the Chase. We had Watkins Glen won, go to the last lap and get in somebody else’s oil. We had some issues mechanically during the year that cost us,” Gibbs said.

“Kyle really handled all of those things about as good as you could handle them. I think it showed real maturity, and I think that kind of set the course for this year, really.”

He finished 34th and 23rd in the season’s first two races but has been among the series’ best performers ever since.

Busch led 171 of the 334 laps Saturday night and even though he was running second late in the race to Truex, his team put him into the lead on the race’s final pit stop. He led the final 20 laps.

Carl Edwards finished third, Greg Biffle was fourth and Joey Logano was fifth. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson ended up sixth.

The loss was particularly disheartening to Truex who appeared on the verge of ending what is now a 210-race winless streak.

“The last caution came out and we got beat out of the pits and that was the race,” Truex said. “It was pretty frustrating to run second again. I feel like we’ve been in this boat and this position a bunch of times.”

Apparent suicide in infield

A medical examiner says a man who died in the infield during a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway shot himself in the head.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office said the death of 42-year-old Kirk Franklin of Saginaw was a suicide.

Fort Worth police have said a man who was camping in the infield died of a "self-inflicted injury" after getting into an argument with other campers. The incident happened late in the Spring Cup race.

Police spokeswoman Cpl. Tracey Knight has said alcohol may have been a factor. Knight said several people witnessed the incident, but nobody was in danger.

Track spokesman Mike Zizzo say the death occurred “in or around a pickup truck” in part of the infield near the middle of the backstretch.

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