08/26/10 — Local Opinion: Kyle Busch is Chase favorite

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Local Opinion: Kyle Busch is Chase favorite

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 26, 2010 1:47 PM

Kyle Busch's legend on the race track continues to grow. So does the number of his detractors and on-track rivals.

Busch completed a historic sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway last week, becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to win a race in all three of the sport's major series in the same week.

The 25-year-old Las Vegas native led 515 of the 956 laps raced.

Busch's dreams of a sweep were almost shattered when Jamie McMurray passed Busch for the lead on lap 389 in the Sprint Cup race. Both drivers came to pit road under green. Busch nosed past leader David Reutimann on lap 429 and with fresh tires, he drove away from the field.

Busch's accomplishment didn't come without some controversy after he admittedly wrecked Brad Keselowski near the end of Friday night's Nationwide race. His post-race celebration on Friday night was met with a chorus of boo's from the crowd.

Keselowski called Busch a horse's rear end during driver introductions on Saturday night and that feud appears to be far from over. Like him, love him or hate him, it's hard to argue with Busch's accomplishments or talent.

He's won 73 races in NASCAR's three major series since making his debut at a truck series race in 2001 as a high school junior. Busch is in the three in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series points standings, and he is tied for the most wins in the Camping World Trucks Series.

He captured the Nationwide championship in 2009. In February of 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in California, Busch won a Nationwide and Truck Series race on the same day -- a first in NASCAR history.

Busch's on-track incidents with Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., teammate Denny Hamlin and older brother Kurt are all well documented. At times his emotions and what's at least perceived as arrogance or extreme confidence can be his downfall.

Since Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away in 2001, NASCAR diehards have longed for a driver like Earnhardt, who cared more about Victory Lane than image and more about checkered flags and less about making friends.

In many ways, Busch has become that driver but has failed to gain the same popularity with fans and in the garage that Earnhardt did.

However, with two races remaining before the season-ending Chase begins, Busch, and not current points leader Kevin Harvick, or four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, has to be considered the favorite.

Busch appears to have learned from his collapse during the 2008 Chase when he entered as the points leader after winning eight races during the regular season. Failure to finish consecutive races at New Hampshire and Dover erased all hopes of a championship, and he finished 10th in points.

Busch has victories at eight of the 12 tracks remaining on the Sprint Cup schedule, including six of the 10 tracks involved in the Chase.

A little girl held a sign at Bristol last weekend that read, "Kyle Busch Rules Deal With It!"

If Busch keeps winning, some people may find dealing with it easier said than done.