Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Sunday July 2, 2006
Despite the controversy they've created over the last year and a halfâ€¦despite the fans that boo them during driver introductionsâ€¦despite the criticism they've generated from all areas of NASCAR on what seems like a regular basisâ€¦there are two people in the Nextel Cup garage that Kyle and Kurt Busch know will never turn against them.
While other brother-brother race driver combinations tend to lean more in the direction of on-track altercations than genuine love and support, Kyle and Kurt Busch have always stood up for each other in every type of situation, both on and off the track. That on track support was in full effect Saturday night, when, as the laps counted down in the annual summer shootout at Daytona, the brothers Busch found themselves bumper to bumper, in hot pursuit of Tony Stewart for a trip to Victory Lane.
The fact the two brothers were in cars owned by two different teams, driving for two different manufacturers meant nothing; everyone within a 100 mile radius of Daytona Beach knew the brothers would be working together to get to the front. There was only one problem; if the Busch brothers found a way to overtake Stewart, Victory Lane wasn't big enough for the both of them. It's the type of scenario that in racing creates a recipe for family disaster, but in this case it turned out there was no need to worry; older brother Kurt had already decided who was going to get the chance to win the race.
"I would have done anything that Kyle needed me to do to help him go to Victory Lane," said Kurt. "More motivation came because my little brother was driving that second place car."
In the end, Kyle and Kurt's chances for the win went the way of a little extra debris in turn three on the final lap, but their second and third place finishes couldn't come at a better time for them both, especially Kyle. While Kurt's run marked his fourth Top 10 in as many races, you have to go back to Dover at the beginning of June to find the last time Kyle finished higher than 11th. Spending this weekend in a car with restrictor plates, a type of racing that's produced no better finish than 23rd for Kyle in six career starts, Daytona certainly didn't figure to be the race to turn his fortunes around.
The seventh time around turned out to be the charm. For the first time, Kurt had a chance to help his brother out, putting Kyle in perfect position at the end of the race. It was a small gesture of support on the track, but just the latest in a series of events the past few months where Kurt has begun to repay the numerous times Kyle has come to his aid. When Kurt got suspended for an incident with local police at Phoenix last November, Kyle won the race, and then spent his mandatory press conference defending his brother, so much so he became a target of criticism himself. When Kurt ignited a firestorm of on track controversy early in the season, culminating in an on track incident with Greg Biffle this April, Kyle piped up again, unafraid to defend his brother in the face of a media witchhunt.
Lately, though, the shoe's been on the other foot, with two on track incidents with Casey Mears throwing Kyle in the media doghouse. The second incident came at Lowe's, in which Busch was inadvertently caught up in Mears' wreck. An innocent victim, Kyle lost his temper and threw his HANS device at Mears, costing him 25 Nextel Cup points and drawing the ire of several veterans in the garage area, claiming Kyle was too immature to drive responsibly in Nextel Cup.
During that time, who was the first one to speak up in Kyle's defense? Why, none other than Kurt himself. Claiming that he was just as immature when he first moved up to the Nextel Cup series, Kurt stressed patience in allowing Kyle to figure himself out and mature at his own pace.
Such support has only helped the two of them, because both drivers have been so controversy free during the month of June you were beginning to wonder what was wrong with them. Now, the brothers are posting finishes that back up their good behavior. With Kyle eighth in points and Kurt just 103 out of the Top 10, they could be nine races away from being the first brother-brother combination to make the Chase for the Championship in its three year existence.
"What a brother," replied Kyle when asked about how Kurt had helped him get to the front Saturday night.
When you realize how the two look out for each other, I'm hard pressed to disagree.
Now, if they could just work on making friends with everybody elseâ€¦
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