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Busch feeling the heat

By Dave Skretta
Associated Press / October 9, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Kyle Busch stood outside his hauler in the infield at Kansas Speedway this week, wearing sunglasses on an overcast day. He looked comfortable, breezily answering questions, even though he acknowledges the stress that weighs on him.

This is supposed to be the year he finally wins a Cup title.

He is married now and has mellowed slightly, showing more maturity on and off the track. He has won four more times to push his career total to 30, and started the Chase for the Sprint Cup as the top seed.

But Busch has gotten off to a mediocre start through three races coming into Kansas, where his season has gone bust in his last few title runs. He is eighth entering today’s race in the tightly bunched Chase standings, 15 points off co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

“There’s 43 guys out here every week that if they don’t win, they didn’t meet the potential they wanted to,’’ said Busch, who qualified third for the Hollywood Casino 400. “It’s high pressure, it’s high stakes. There’s a lot on the line and this is a performance business, and you’ve certainly got to make the most of it. We’re trying every week.’’

It just hasn’t been quite good enough.

The 26-year-old Busch started the Chase with a 26th-place run at Chicago and finished 11th at New Hampshire before a sixth-place run last weekend at Dover restored some confidence.

He had hoped to get off to a better start, knowing Kansas Speedway is rarely kind to him.

Busch came to the 1 1/2-mile tri-oval just 10 points out of the Chase lead in 2007, when he got tangled up with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last year, Busch was sitting third in the standings when he spun David Reutimann early in the race. Busch called it unintentional contact, but it didn’t sit well with Reutimann. He got payback with 122 laps left when Busch was running seventh, hitting his car and forcing him into the wall. Busch finished 21st.

In June, a simmering feud between Busch and Richard Childress Racing ignited. Busch had bumped into Childress driver Joey Coulter on a cool-down lap after the truck race. The 65-year-old Childress showed his displeasure by assaulting Busch, earning a $150,000 fine from NASCAR.

It added another reason for Busch to dislike Kansas.

“When it’s one of your least favorite racetracks, it’s not beneficial to come here twice,’’ he said. “We’ll work hard and take what we can get out of this weekend.’’

While Busch would be pleased with a decent finish, Edwards will be content with nothing short of a win.

The native of Columbia, Mo., had a chance to take the solo lead in the Chase at Dover, but a pit-road speeding penalty cost him. He was furious with himself, promising to his team over the radio that he would win at Kansas.