Just like old times: BMS, Cup leader Kyle Busch may not have changed as much as believed

Dave Ongie • Aug 27, 2011 at 12:01 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — There has been a lot said lately about the New Bristol Motor Speedway and the New Kyle Busch.

But after the dramatic events that took place in Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race, it appears that both may be myths.

In fact, much of the talk around the Sprint Cup garage on Friday in advance of tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race centered on two subjects: a racetrack that still frays the nerves of the drivers, and a driver who can’t help but find controversy no matter how well he’s running.

The old bullring may offer multiple racing grooves these days, but BMS proved on Wednesday that it can still bring people together. Busch and Elliott Sadler certainly came together on lap 98 of the O’Reilly 200, damaging Busch’s truck in the process.

Busch opted for retaliation, spinning out Sadler before later taking a verbal shot at Kevin Harvick, Sadler’s car owner in the Nationwide Series, re-igniting a rivalry that seemed to be cooling in recent weeks. When Harvick met the media on Friday morning, he made it clear that Busch was still very much on his radar screen.

“Old Kyle, I guess, showed up this last week,” Harvick said. “He was pouting because he was getting his butt whipped, I guess.

“If he keeps running his mouth, he’s going to get his butt whipped off the track, too.”

While Harvick, who is third in the Sprint Cup points standings behind Busch and Jimmie Johnson, was seething inside the media center, Busch was only about 20 yards away, surrounded by a scrum of reporters behind his No. 18 hauler. The current points leader took questions about the latest controversy with the matter-of-fact demeanor of a man who’s seen his share of conflict.

After getting married over the offseason and settling into his role as the owner of the truck team he started last year, many have attributed Busch’s success this season to a newfound maturity. That may be true, but he’s as aggressive as ever, and that hasn’t prevented him from emerging as a front- runner to win his first Cup championship.

In fact, there is evidence that Busch actually feeds off the rivalries he finds himself embroiled in so often. Dave Rogers, Busch’s crew chief, said he knew that his driver was going to win last year’s Irwin Tools Night Race the minute he heard Brad Keselowski insult Busch over the public address system during driver introductions.

“It can bring out the best or it can bring out the worst,” Busch said with a shrug of the shoulders. “But just about every day I’ve got something, so I’m getting pretty used to it.”

As for the track, drivers insist the new surface hasn’t made racing in Bristol any less of a challenge.

“We’re just not seeing as many wrecks as we used to in the past,” said Kurt Busch, a five-time Cup winner at BMS. “But this track is mean. It is rough, it is tough, it will chew you up and spit you out just like the old one would.”

Kurt Busch enters the weekend eighth in the points standings and with a win to his credit, but he’s still hoping for a good weekend to gain some momentum before the chase. For Keselowski, his teammate at Penske Racing, the goal is to keep his current hot streak alive.

Keselowski won three weeks ago at Pocono, finished second at Watkins Glen and came home third in Michigan last Sunday. The surge has moved him up to 12th in the standings, but his two wins put him in a good position to lock up one of the wild-card spots.

Now he’s hoping to survive Bristol in order to keep his title hopes alive.

“Coming into Bristol, we’ll do our best to not be on the truck early,” Keselowski said. “You never know what’s going to happen. I feel really good about this weekend and I think that we can get it done.”

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