By Kelly Crandall (LOUDON, N.H.) – Trying to win your first career championship is hard enough but for Kyle Busch it’s harder when the man he’s found himself chasing the first two weeks happens to be driving the same cars he is.
Busch finished second again and again it was to teammate Matt Kenseth who opened the Chase with back-to-back victories. The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates brought home 1-2 finishes in both Chicago and New Hampshire Motor Speedway and sit atop the point standings. While Busch still remains without a Chase victory, he’s off to a solid start when it comes to the bigger picture in a season that many have said is his best chance to win a title.
“Race was pretty good. Certainly we were never as fast this weekend as the 20 was,” Busch said after earning his eighth top 10 finish at NHMS. “They just had a special car. Sometimes you unload with them, and they’re just phenomenal. The 20 had that here this weekend. We tried everything to try to keep up with him and to get pace with him, but it was tough to do.”
Busch started the day 12th but didn’t make solid gains on his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota until late in the Sylvania 300. As the race wound down into it’s final quarter Busch started coming towards the front. Gaining positions on pit road and restarts until finally finding the top five. Except, by the time he had started to chop into Kenseth’s lead it was too late.
“The guys did a great job of working on it for me and getting me better each and every run. I felt like we were making gains. And track position is certainly important, too,” said Busch. “A little tough to pass, but that’s been the name of the game here at Loudon for years.”
Competing with Kenseth, who signed with the team in the offseason and has won a series and career best seven times in 2013, is keeping Busch on his toes. Forcing everything out of him, which might not be enough either. He called Kenseth one of the best, which is why he was hired. Putting him in JGR equipment, with a smart crew chief, isn’t surprising for Busch that he’s putting it all together.
“I don’t think you do anything differently than you’ve done all year long. I think the organization is going to give the equipment to both of us. I don’t think any one of us is going to get better stuff,” Busch said about how the rest of the Chase will play out. “It’s just going to come down to better communication between myself and the crew chief because those are certainly the ways that you win these things.”
Kenseth, Busch felt, lucked into the win last weekend because he didn’t get a good enough restart late in the race to keep up with him. As for the other side of the teammate competition, Kenseth complimented the younger driver as being the most talented in the sport. Explaining how tough it is to race him because you can’t make many mistakes and Sunday Kenseth didn’t want Busch to get any closer. To his seven wins, Busch has four on the season.
The Chase is a whole different animal, something Busch knows about. He’s entered as the favorite as well as the top seed and has missed the postseason before. Two races is still early in terms of setting a clear picture of who will and won’t be fighting for the championship at Homestead, but Busch holds a steady gap on the field behind him with two top three finishes.
“It’s early. I mean, it’s week two,” Busch noted. “Certainly it’s nice to get a strong start. There’s no doubt about it. You’d rather finish first both weeks than 43rd and get yourself up there and get a strong foundation built to where you can continue on down the road and maybe not have so much pressure on yourself to have to perform to catch up.
“But that’s good that we’re both up there like that, that we’re able to do that and that we’re pushing each other hard and that we’re pushing the competition as well, too.”
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