For Kyle Busch, winning the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday was monumental in more ways than one.
Yes, he earned his first win at Michigan. Yes, he clinched his berth in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Yes, he became the first four-time Cup winner this season. But what was on his mind after that green/white-checkered finish? He put a Toyota in Victory Lane at the track closest to the city of the Big Three.
“You know, it’s so awesome to finally win here at Michigan and get Toyota to Victory Lane here at Michigan,” Busch said. “It feels good being so close to Detroit and everything. This was a flawless Camry and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing -- all these guys on this team; the guys at JGR engine room -- gave me a great motor today.”
Jimmie Johnson was trying to carry the flag for Detroit, racing his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet hard, but Busch edged him by .568 seconds. That kept Johnson winless at Michigan International Speedway -- one of five tracks currently on the circuit where he hasn’t earned a victory.
The old maxim still holds true that what wins on Sunday sells on Monday. And for Toyota, Busch is its most valuable salesperson. Now the question is, will Busch break Johnson’s streak of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships and give Toyota its first NASCAR Sprint Cup title? Busch currently leads the standings by 10 points over Johnson.
“I’ve worked with Kyle as a teammate in the past,” Johnson said. “I understand his passion for racing. I certainly know he’s not afraid to stand on the gas and can really drive the car to its full potential week in and week out.
“I said this about him a while ago: Once he figured out how to win races, he’d win a lot. He certainly had done that. His big test is for a championship. Once he understands that and figures that out, I think he’ll win lots of those, too.”
Everyone has their eye on Busch this season. Even Darrell Waltrip, who has raced with legends like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, had this to say Monday via Twitter: “I've either raced against or watched the greatest drivers that's ever been in NASCAR, Kyle Busch is the most talented driver I've ever seen.”
Darrell was one of the greats, too. That comment says a lot.
Busch’s dominance on the race track this season has marked him a favorite to win the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.