Safe Bet: Bright Future for Young Kyle Busch


By Amy Walsh


When Kyle Busch was a child, he played on a makeshift go-kart riding around the cul-de-sac outside of his home.  From the outside looking in, one can wonder what penetrated his young mind while he veered his way though the asphalt road course he constructed out of soda cans. Potentially visions of competing like his favorite NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon or winning as he had seen his older brother Kurt do on the local racetracks time and time again. Fast forward the clock of time 10 years and Busch is strapping into the ride of a lifetime.


Those ¿little kid in a go kart¿ dreams may seem like ages go to the 19-year old Las Vegas native. Mainly because since Busch hit the starting grid in 2003, his life - both on and off the race track - has been in high gear and running on all eight cylinders. Although the excitement is tremendous and potentially overwhelming, the level headed teen has set some realistic goals for himself and the No. 5 Kellogg¿s team entering their rookie season.  


¿We've set a few goals this year for the No. 5 Kellogg¿s team,¿ explained Busch. ¿We want to go out there and be competitive every week. Our goal for the year is to go out there, get a win or two; some top- fives and top-10s; and definitely win the Raybestos® Rookie of the Year award like Kasey Kahne did last year.¿

Busch will have the help of his crew chief Alan Gustafson.


"There are two things new to the Kellogg¿s team ¿ myself and my crew chief Alan,¿ continued Busch. ¿He (Alan) has been on the team since 2001 as an engineer but this is his first year as a crew chief. Mr. Hendrick and the whole Hendrick Motorsports organization have faith in Alan¿s talent and abilities, the team his behind him 100%, and so am I. So far so good.¿


The Kellogg¿s team tested in early January at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the Daytona 500 and then later in the month at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and California Speedway.


¿NASCAR has changed the rules a bit this year so we're going to have to go out there and be prepared to learn,¿ explained Busch. ¿There are a lot more differences between the Cup and Busch cars ¿ more than most people think so as I driver I will have my work cut out for me. Running a full- time team will give us the opportunity to develop a baseline of what we need to learn from the race tracks. As far as last year, I think we tried too hard on a few things. We're coming along but we've got a lot of work to do on learning the car, the crew and me as a driver. I¿ve been getting used to the guys at the shop and vise versa, so hopefully, the No. 5 car has some success stories ahead of us."


Busch will have a little advantage over the competition. He will have the benefit of a veteran team in his corner. His No. 5 Chevrolets are the same cars driven by Terry Labonte, two-time NASCAR Cup Champion, and the well-experienced crew has remained virtually in-tact. Also, he isn¿t alone in his quest for success on the racetrack. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates include Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers ¿ and he has received some excellent advice on how to handle his rookie season.

eff Gordon has been an inspiration to me and also a great teacher,¿ recalls Busch. ¿He was always my hero so to be able to race with him and be on the same team as him is most definitely a dream come true. To be able to just ask him questions and get feedback from a four-time NEXTEL Cup champion is unbelievable. Also, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Terry Labonte have been great.¿


It has been said that success breeds success, so Busch is banking on his experiences in the NASCAR Busch Series from the 2004 season to fall back on as well. Busch finished second in the championship standings, won five races, five poles and scored 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. He was the youngest rookie of the year winner in the history of the program and now holds or shares seven all-time Raybestos® Rookie of the Year records. Busch is no stranger to success and plans on sharing more of the same in the future.


¿There is a lot to say about chemistry in this sport,¿ concluded Busch. ¿If you look back on the first year a driver, crew and crew chief work together, there is always a learning curve. There are growing pains and sometimes bumps in the road. Chemistry is born out of experience and repetitiveness. Alan and I will get that chemistry eventually, and this team will jell in time as well. Pretty soon we will be like Jeff and Robbie (Loomis) and Jimmie and Chad (Knaus).

¿I¿m really looking forward to racing at Las Vegas in a NEXTEL Cup car.  To be back home, competing in front of your family and friends, is pretty special to say the least. I¿m hoping for a good performance because Las Vegas is a tough track. It will be important for us to run well from the start of the season, and maintain a good points position. I definitely think we are capable of it and can¿t wait to see if we can get the job done.¿


So, what more can a future NASCAR start ask for than to drive for Hendrick Motorsports,  in the most prestigious level of NASCAR racing ¿ the NEXTEL Cup Series, for a sponsor as well known as Kellogg¿s? Only Busch knows, but right now he is shooting for the stars and everything that is happening is nothing less than a dream come true.