Busch leading the pack
Franklin County Times
If you haven't noticed, Kyle Busch is a pretty good race car driver. Only 23 years old, this guy has served noticed to the NASCAR world that he intends on taking all three series to the woodshed. Busch has competed in 11 races among the top three NASCAR series. He has three wins, nine Top 5 finishes and nine Top 10's in those 11 races. That's stout.
Busch currently sits atop both the Sprint Cup standings and the Craftsman Truck Series standings. A blown tire at Atlanta last weekend during the Nationwide Series race is the only thing preventing him from leading all three series a month into the season. That has to be some kind of benchmark.
After his unceremonious release from Hendrick Motorsports last season (yes, he was released, no matter what the spin was), Busch is like Robert Conrad in the old battery commercials, "Go ahead, knock it off." He wants to beat everyone on the track, every week.
Since arriving on the scene in 2005, Busch has matured tremendously and this year seems to be his "coming out" season. Now, that maturation process doesn't necessarily mean he won't put a guy in the wall to win a race. He just won't run his mouth on camera afterwards. Unless something drastic changes, the 2008 Sprint Cup champion will have to beat Kyle Busch to claim the crown.
This week at Bristol will be Dale Jarrett's last regular points race. Jarrett is a class act and one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. Although the last few years have not been up to earlier standards, Jarrett deserves to go out on his terms, and he will. After a career with a 1999 championship, 32 wins and 163 Top 5 finishes in 667 career races, Jarrett will move to the ESPN booth to broadcast Nationwide races until August when the Cup races move to that network. I have said this before: Jarrett will be an award-winning broadcaster.
Jarrett and sponsor UPS will also be remembered as being a part of one of the most entertaining and effective sponsor partnerships in NASCAR. After driving the brown car for 10 years, Jarrett will be to UPS what Richard Petty is to STP and Rusty Wallace is to Miller Lite. Yeah, that car will still be on the track with David Reutimann, but it won't be the same. Congrats to Jarrett for an unbelievable career.
Rain has been a real nuisance so far this season and it looks like this weekend at Bristol will be no different. Qualifying for the race Sunday was rained out and the starting grid was set by the 2007 final owner standings.
This is the fifth race of the year and the last before the 2008 top 35 will be used to guarantee starting spots. Michael Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, JJ Yeley, Sam Hornish, Dave Blaney, Dario Franchitti, Regan Smith and Kyle Petty are in positions 33-40 in the standings. Only 86 points separate those guys and all will be racing hard Sunday to make it in the all-important top 35. Breaking that threshold could mean millions to these guys and their car owners. It will be very interesting to see the racing in the back of the field among these guys.
We should be in for good racing Sunday in Bristol, and I think Kyle Busch continues his torrid pace and repeats as winner of this race.
Jeff Findley is a guest columnist for the Franklin County Times. Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald.