Kyle Busch (above) has threatened to win every NASCAR Sprint Cup race run this year and at the high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend the 22-year old finally put it all together to score a dominant victory. After three years with Rick Hendrick’s Chevrolet team, Busch was dropped by Hendrick last year in favour of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Busch was snapped up by Joe Gibbs’ team which also switched over the winter to Toyota and the combination has been the quickest in NASCAR so far this year.
Busch’s win at Atlanta was Toyota’s first in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup series while teammate Tony Stewart (above) made it a one-two sweep for Toyota. It took Toyota just thirteen months and forty races to get to the front in NASCAR and with Busch now leading the championship it’s clear to all that Toyota not only has arrived in NASCAR but that many more wins are bound to follow.
Meanwhile, the passel of open-wheel drivers who followed Juan Pablo Montoya’s tracks in switching to NASCAR this year are beginning to face the cold reality of their new lives in stock car racing. At this early stage of the season Montoya is doing no better than last year and is mired in twenty-fourth place in Sprint Cup points while each of Sam Hornish, Dario Franchitti and Patrick Carpentier are outside the top thirty-five in points. Hornish, Franchitti and Carpentier have been fortunate through NASCAR’s first five races of the year in enjoying quaranteed starting positions. But if they’re unable to break into the top thirty-five at the Bristol, Tennessee bullring this coming weekend they will face the same challenge encountered last year by A.J. Allmendinger.
(Montoya leads the pack in the number 42 car)
Hornish, Franchitti and Carpentier will have to make it into the field on pure qualifying speed which means they’ll have to be among the ten or fifteen fastest cars at each race to have any hope of making the field. Like Montoya and Allmendinger before them, each of Hornish, Franchitti and Carpentier are discovering that NASCAR is a much tougher game than they ever imagined.