This year’s other top NASCAR title contender is Kyle Busch (above left) who won eight races last year, his first with Joe Gibbs’s three-car Toyota team. Fast and confident, Busch seemed at Daytona to have tamed some of the youthful hubris which has got the better of him in recent years. Kyle turns 24 in May, and by then we’ll know how good he’s looking this year. At Daytona he was the man to beat, leading 88 laps before being taken out in a messy, multi-car wreck triggered by a fender-banging argument between Dale Earnhardt Jr and Brian Vickers.
Young Busch is going after all three NASCAR titles this year, taking on the Herculean task of running all 96 Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck series races. Tony Stewart’s departure from Gibbs’s team to start his own Chevrolet-equipped squad has elevated Busch to the role of unchallenged team leader. Denny Hamlin is quick and an established race winner, but usually finds himself overshadowed by Busch.
Rookie Joey Logano turns 19 on May 24 and is precociously talented but has much to learn. And, of course, Gibbs was the first top team to move to Toyota and enjoys the benefits of the Japanese manufacturer’s financial and engineering resources at a time when those from Detroit are drying up. Over the coming years NASCAR fans will find themselves forced to learn to like, or at least tolerate, Kyle Busch and Toyota.