Kyle Busch trying to Chase away his NASCAR doubters

dscott@charlotteobserver.comOctober 1, 2013 

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Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2013 in Dover, Delaware.

JONATHAN FERREY — Getty

  • Points Leaders

    1. Kenseth2,1497. Newman-48
    2. Johnson-88. Bowyer-51
    3. Busch-129. Busch-55
    4. Harvick-3910. Earnhardt Jr.-57
    5. Gordon-3911. Edwards-65
    6. Biffle-4112. Logano-66

    Inside

    Piquet penalized: Nationwide Series driver Nelson Piquet Jr. was fined $10,000 and placed on probation by NASCAR after using an anti-gay slur on social media. 5C

Whether talking about what he gleans from great quarterbacks or how he lightens the mood around his Joe Gibbs Racing shop, Kyle Busch was in an NFL-kind of mood Tuesday afternoon.

Sitting third in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup standings after three races, Busch is in contention to win his first title. He’ll try to stay close to leader Matt Kenseth (whom he trails by 12 points) and second-place Jimmie Johnson (four) at Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas City (Kan.) Speedway.

Busch knows the drivers he’s trailing well. One of them, Kenseth, is a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and a big Green Bay Packers fan. The other, Johnson, is a former teammate of Busch’s at Hendrick Motorsports.

“They’re completely different guys,” Busch said Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte. “Jimmie was more of a go-to guy; you could lean on him and ask questions. With Matt, you can joke around a lot more. More of: ‘The Packers (stunk) this weekend, what did you do to those guys?’ ”

Busch has been outstanding in the Chase so far, with second-place finishes at Chicago and New Hampshire preceding a fifth at Dover last Sunday. But with Kenseth (victories at Chicago and New Hampshire) and Johnson (the winner at Dover) that much better, Busch has looked around for other ways to help him take that final step to winning his first title.

“The biggest thing is (crew chief) Dave Rogers has been a huge inspiration,” said Busch. “We’ve had big heart-to-heart moments. I’ve talked to (team owner) Joe (Gibbs). And (Busch’s wife) Samantha has been a voice of reason.”

That’s when Busch comes back to the NFL and two of its most accomplished quarterbacks, particularly Denver’s Peyton Manning.

Manning was criticized for years for not performing well in the playoffs – until he finally won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

“I also watch other professional sports and what they do,” Busch said. “Peyton Manning and the way he goes about things. People want to relate Kyle Busch closely to him, although he does have that one championship ring. But he’s kind of thought of as the god of the regular season because he doesn’t do well in the postseason. Although I think that’s going to change again this year.

“But you watch guys like him and Tom Brady, who have their own way of doing things and realizing their own expectations.

“It’s more of an appreciation and respect of watching these guys be so good at what they do, what they can achieve in their own realm. So any time you can take something from someone else, learn from it and apply it to your job, it can help.”

Busch, who didn’t make the Chase in 2012 and whose highest finish was fifth in 2007, said the relationship a quarterback has with his football team is similar to that of a driver and his race team.

“The biggest thing is how they react to different situations with the team,” said Busch, who also studies how Manning and Brady handle themselves with the media. “If Peyton’s on the bench and his defense allows the other team to drive down and score, that’s (the same) as me being passed and not going forward, getting stale. You have to get with the team and talk about it, not freak out about it, and go forward.”

Busch did admit that there is one big difference in how he communicates and how a quarterback talks on the bench or in the huddle.

“They don’t have a mic button that they press and the whole world gets to listen,” he said.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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