Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Kyle Busch looks to change his luck

MARTINSVILLE -- The first of a handful of media members to tour Martinsville Speedway from the passenger seat of Kyle Busch's race car Wednesday had an important question before stepping through the window.

"You're not going to wreck, are you?" she said.

"Hope not," Busch said with a smile. "That's not the plan."

Some reassurance that was. Very little has gone according to Busch's plan this season.

After speedily - and safely - escorting the reporters around the oval, Busch spoke candidly about a frustrating season that has sapped his motivation and tested his patience. A bad night at Richmond on Sept. 8 booted him from the Chase for only the second time in his career.

"You get over it as best you can, I guess," said Busch, in town to help Martinsville Speedway promote the Oct. 28 Tums Fast Relief 500. "It's still in your mind that you're going every weekend to just make circles and hope that you can win. If you don't win, it's pretty much a waste."

Example: Last week at New Hampshire, Busch thought he had a second place car and led 48 of the first 93 laps. Engine problems dropped him to a 28th-place finish -- the ninth time he's run outside the top 20 this season.

"Oh, it's beating me down," Busch said. "That's for sure."

And how has he gotten over it?

"I haven't," Busch said. "I mean, I'm not in the Chase. You're getting beat down every single week and having bad days, and you keep trying to come to the racetrack with an open mind and something else happens again.

"Then you reset and try to come to the racetrack with an open mind and excited about it, and something else happens again. It's like, 'How many more times can I do this?' It seems like Groundhog Day this year."

After the Richmond race, Busch decided to have a "pretend Chase" and tally his points against the 12 drivers who did make it. That went OK in the first Chase race, when he finished fourth in Chicago.

But Loudon scrapped that plan.

"Everybody always asks me why I can't win a championship," Busch said. "Well, I think you would have saw it again this year. I would have blown up in the second race and been out of it again. It just seems like every single year it's something."

The only poor finish Busch attributes to driver error was at Watkins Glen, where he wishes he'd driven harder through the oil on the final lap. The rest, he said, has been equipment woes.

"It's all stuff," Busch said. "Just stuff. I broke a shock mount, but [teammates] Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano didn't. I broke a rotor, but Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano didn't. The auraĆ¢? "

He paused and waved his hands in front of his torso.

"It's bad," he said. "Bad."

Busch now will try to help Hamlin -- currently third in the points standings -- win his first championship over the final eight races. He'll also try to get a few wins himself, with an eye toward improvement in 2013.

"You've got to start out the year better," said Busch, who mortgaged his margin for error by finishing 17th or worse in four of the first six races. "We had a few dismal runs early in the year, and then we had our May stretch that we ran in the top 5 five weeks in a row. Then from there, all hell broke loose. We knocked ourselves out of the Chase and haven't been able to recover.

"We'll hopefully have better luck than that next year."

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