Busch over­shad­owed, not over­matched in re­peat Chase bid

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mark Long AP Sports Writer

Kyle Busch is hardly the peo­ple’s choice.

His cham­pi­onship run last year was over­shad­owed by Jeff Gor­don’s farewell. His quest to re­peat prob­a­bly ranks be­hind Tony Ste­wart’s re­tire­ment and Jim­mie John­son’s shot at mak­ing his­tory.

He’s over­looked but far from over­matched. Busch might even be the man to beat in the NASCAR fi­nale at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way on Sun­day.

“I think win­ning the cham­pi­onship last year def­i­nitely im­pacted us,” Busch said. “It just gave us a greater sense of be­lief in our­selves and our team and con­fi­dence in be­ing able to go out there and do it again. You know, there’s no rea­son to think that what we ac­com­plished last year is a one-time thing.

“We feel we’re just as good last year if not bet­ter and per­formed bet­ter through­out this Chase in or­der to get our­selves in the po­si­tion we’re in. There are plenty of rea­sons as to why we can be beat and plenty of rea­sons as to why we can beat the rest of them.”

Busch’s cham­pi­onship run last year was some­thing be­fit­ting a Hol­ly­wood script. He missed the first 11 races of the sea­son af­ter break­ing his leg and foot in a hard crash at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

He tran­si­tioned from comeback kid to cham­pi­onship con­tender af­ter win­ning four of five races dur­ing a sum­mer hot streak. With a new son, a sup­port­ive wife and a new­found ma­tu­rity, Busch looked like a changed man.

He won the fi­nale at Homestead and gave Toy­ota its first Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship.

Now, he’s look­ing to make it two in a row. Stand­ing in his way are Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mate Carl Ed­wards, Joey Logano and John­son, who can tie the NASCAR record held by Richard Petty and Dale Earn­hardt.

“I cer­tainly think that it’s dif­fer­ent from last year for sure,” Busch said. “Last year, I was just a part-time cham­pion, so this year I hope to be­come a full-time cham­pion.”

He won’t get any help from Ed­wards.

Team owner Joe Gibbs said Fri­day that Busch and Ed­wards will be on their own dur­ing prac­tice and once the green flag drops.

“To be quite truth­ful, both of them want this in the worst way and they’re go­ing to com­pete,” Gibbs said. “They’re not shar­ing a lot of stuff. It’s go­ing to be up to them in­di­vid­u­ally. ... We kind of felt like ob­vi­ously they’re go­ing to be kind of in­di­vid­u­ally go­ing for it. They’ll both kind of be on their own here.”

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