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For all his wins, Busch really just wants a title

ThatsRacin.com Opinion

- sfowler@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2010

It seems like Kyle Busch wins something practically every week.

In NASCAR’s three national series – the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – Busch has won 18 times this year. The victories peaked last month at Bristol, Va., when he became the first NASCAR driver ever to win races in all three big series during the same weekend. He brought out a broom to celebrate the sweep.

What Busch, 25, hasn’t won, however, is a Sprint Cup points championship. What would make NASCAR more interesting for the rest of this season is if he did – or if he at least contended through the final weekend in Homestead, Fla.

Busch, as all race fans know, moves the needle. As talented and versatile as any driver, he is disliked by many, tolerated by some and loved by others. Nicknamed “Rowdy,” he is a frequent feuder. He wears the black hat in NASCAR with pride, the way some pro wrestlers did in their sport’s heyday.

When race fans recently booed Busch after one of his wins at Bristol, he pretended to cry, then mockingly wiped away the tears.

But Busch’s brash personality doesn’t mean he has no feel for the sport’s history. He said Tuesday on a conference call he would trade all 80 of his victories in the three primary NASCAR series for the 2010 Sprint Cup title.

His exact quote: “If I could, I’d probably give up the wins I have in order to win this championship this year and to be known as a Sprint Cup Series champion.”

Busch knows how much an overall title means firsthand, having seen older brother Kurt win one in 2004.

It’s like a Super Bowl ring – in NFL alumni gatherings, you’re defined in part about whether you own one or not.

Busch doesn’t have a Sprint Cup title. Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, owns the past four. Although we’re only one race into the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, everyone is waiting for Johnson to make his seemingly inevitable move.

Johnson sits seventh in the Cup standings, 92 points behind leader Denny Hamlin (who is Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing and had a well-publicized feud with him this season). Busch is fourth, 62 points out of the lead.

Busch seems well-positioned to make a run, though, with several tracks coming up where he usually runs well, including Dover this weekend and Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

Even without a championship, Busch looks primed for a good offseason. He is engaged to Samantha Sarcinella.

The two starred in a brief ESPN reality TV series this month and plan a Dec. 31 wedding in Chicago.

It’s hard to imagine that getting married will soften “Rowdy’s” demeanor. As he said this year in Charlotte, explaining one of the many on-track controversies in which he’s been involved: “It is what it is and I am who I am.”

In the too-often tepid world of today’s NASCAR, with ratings and sponsorships softening, what the sport doesn’t need is a softer Kyle Busch.

It needs him to be ornery – and in the hunt – all the way to the end.

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