Kyle Busch

NASCAR'S Younger Guns

A look at some of NASCAR's up-and-coming drivers
<p> A look at some of NASCAR's up-and-coming drivers</p>
2004

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

The following feature was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual:

For years, almost all of the fish swam into NASCAR’s biggest pond through one main channel. These days, that entryway seems more like a river delta.

Money Talks

Busch "Penalty" a Lesson in NASCAR Economics

by Tom Bowles

A lot of verbiage was spilled into the microphone at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. Taking turns, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs spent precious moments making public amends, celebrating their corporate marriage while embracing the changes needed to keep their partnership afloat. Cupid wasn’t visible, but boy, did he work overtime Thursday night spewing arrows of affection in all the right places.

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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles dissects the Joe Gibbs/Kyle Busch press conference and wonders if any penalty was actually assessed.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

And then there were two

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Tony Stewart  Momentum has clearly swung in Smoke’s favor. He’s always been a streaky driver, and now that he’s “on” it may be hard for Carl Edwards to hold him off.

2. Carl Edwards  Averaging a 5.6-place finish in the Chase, but Stewart is blowing Cousin Carl’s doors off in the wins department. Still, NASCAR’s points format rewards consistency over winning, so is it advantage: Carl?

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<p> Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have separated themselves from the field in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup. But who's the real man to beat?</p>

11. Greg Biffle  Five straight top-15 showings for Biffle and the boys. Finishing strong matters.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Consecutive seventh-place finishes, the best we’ve seen in a few months out of this bunch.

13. Kurt Busch  Parked brother Kyle got more camera time than 30th-place Kurt at Texas.

14. Martin Truex Jr.  Bowyer’s teammate-to-be has three stright top 10s. Again, finishing strong matters.

15. Kyle Busch  There comes a turning point in every driver’s career. Maybe this was Kyle’s.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman
 

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

A Two Man Show? Not Just Yet.

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Carl Edwards
Talladega and Martinsville were the wild card tracks, and the two Edwards and crew were most apprehensive about. They went into ’Dega with a five-point lead and left Martinsville up eight.

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<p> Is it a two-man battle? Not yet, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have certainly separated from the pack in the Chase standings and in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Jeff Gordon
It’s been a disappointing Chase for Gordon and the gang thus far. In fact, his third-place run at Martinsville was the best showing he’s had since a fourth in Loudon, five weeks ago.

9. Clint Bowyer
Will Bowyer’s hiring at Michael Waltrip Racing come at the expense of David Reutimann’s full-season effort? It just might ...

10. Kyle Busch
Has been wholly unspectacular throughout the Chase, which begs the question, “Why is he rated so high on this list?” Answer: Because he still has the ability to win on any given weekend.

11. Kasey Kahne
A strong six-race run comes to an end in Martinsville, which has never been a great “Kasey track.”

12. Kurt Busch
Sliding the wrong way since the win at Dover five weeks ago.

13. Jeff Burton
Follows runner-up showing at Talladega with a sixth at Martinsville.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In lieu of a top-5 finish, it was at least good to hear Junior having fun in Martinsville.

15. Greg Biffle
Averaging a rather pedestrian 13th-place run over the last month.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Martinsville Speedway

Previewing the Tums Fast Relief 500

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Tums Fast Relief 500
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Location: Martinsville, Va.
When: Sunday, Oct. 30
TV: ESPN (1:30 p.m. EST)

Specs: .526-mile oval; Banking/Turns: 12 degrees

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<p> Athlon Sports previews NASCAR's sixth race in the Chase, the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Edwards wins by "running and hiding" at Talladega

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Carl Edwards No one driver wins the Chase at Talladega, but many lose it. Edwards did neither, which is a good thing for him. Expect top-10 runs from here on out.

2. Matt Kenseth Edwards’ teammate and the 2003 champ, Kenseth, sits just 14 points back in second. Both are good (Texas, Homestead) and weak (Martinsville) at the same tracks.

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<p> Carl Edwards survived the melee that is the final few laps at Talladega on Sunday to extend his points lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He also extended his lead over Matt Kenseth in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Clint Bowyer  Four of his six Chase races have resulted in finishes of eighth or better, including, of course, the big win at ’Dega. It may be the last one he sees for a while since MWR isn’t known as a big-win operation.

9. Jeff Gordon  Gordon’s 27th at Talladega and the events that conspired to contribute to it may have been frustrating, but say this about him: He seemed to be the only Hendrick car that wanted to go to the front and race.

10. Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s average finish in the last six races is 7.1, including four straight runs of sixth or better. It’s a shame everything is coming together for this bunch as the season winds down.

11. Denny Hamlin  Back-to-back solid finishes with his favorite stop — Martinsville — up next.

12. Paul Menard  Leads all drivers on the circuit with a 10.2-place average finish on the plate tracks in 2011.

13. Greg Biffle  Winless thus far in 2011. That’s only happened once to the Biff in eight full-time Cup seasons.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  It ain’t getting any prettier, but I get hate mail if he’s not at least ranked in the top 15.

15. Joey Logano  The final results (24th) don’t back up the great run Logano had at ’Dega with a torn up car.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Horsepower Rankings

Chase field narrows after Monster weekend at Dover

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Attention race fans: Do not count Jimmie Johnson out of the Chase until he is mathematically eliminated (which probably will not happen). Thank you. That is all.

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<p> Jimmie Johnson sits atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

6. Kevin Harvick  Clinging to the points lead thanks to his four regular season wins and top-12 finishes. Still, Harvick seems to be lacking some of the mojo that got him here. Maybe he should pick a fight with Kyle Busch.

7. Matt Kenseth  Running out of fuel in the Chase’s first race at Chicago may come back to haunt Kenseth, who had one of the best cars there. The result was a 21st, with fifth- and sixth-place runs since.

8. Kurt Busch   Busch throws his hat back into the championship hunt with an impressive — and somewhat unexpected — win in Dover over Johnson, who he described as his “arch-nemesis.”

9. Kyle Busch  A sixth at Dover helped his cause after subpar 22nd- and 11th-place showings. Leading laps is Kyle’s calling card, but he hasn’t done that since the onset of the Chase.

10. Ryan Newman   There’s quite a gap between ninth and 10th on the list. Newman is sliding down the rankings thanks to 25th- and 23rd-place runs which have deep-sixed his Chase chances.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  That third-place run to open the Chase is proving to be the fuel-mileage fluke we believed it to be.

12. Clint Bowyer  If he expects to run better at Michael Waltrip Racing next season he needs to think again.

13. AJ Allmendinger  Back to his seventh- to 12th-place ways after a couple of down weeks.

14. Denny Hamlin  Averaged an eighth-place finish in the three races prior to the Chase. Averaging a 26th-place finish in it.

15. Greg Biffle   If a non-Chaser is to win a Chase race, Biffle may be that guy at Kansas.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

NASCAR's northern Chase swing in full effect

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Looked like the typical Chase race for Johnson ... until he was bit by the fuel bug. Still, how many teams do you know can run out of fuel on the final lap and still finish 10th?

2. Kevin Harvick  True to form, “The Closer” was running down Tony Stewart in the closing laps at Chicago. However, this time he came up short. Still your championship leader, though.

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<p> Tony Stewart makes a move up Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings after an impressive Chase-opening win in the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.</p>

8. Matt Kenseth  Kenseth was Stewart’s main competition until — yes, you guessed it — the tank ran dry. And a little “help” from Travis Kvapil was salt in the wound.

9. Kyle Busch  Busch seemed to have a decent car in Chicago, but could never gain the track position he needed to run up front. Oh yeah, he ran out of gas, too.

10. Kurt Busch  Kurt says he’s in Jimmie Johnson’s head, but after listening to him rant to his team on the radio, I think Kurt’s pit crew is in Kurt’s head.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was a legit top-10 car at race’s end. That everyone ran out of fuel in front of him was icing on the cake.

12. Denny Hamlin  What a difference a year makes.

13. Mark Martin  13th on back in the Horsepower Rankings is more or less irrelevant … much like on the Cup circuit!

14. AJ Allmendinger  It wasn’t pretty at Chicago, but credit AJ for a month of solid runs.

15. Clint Bowyer  Returning this week to New Hampshire. Also known to Bowyer as “the scene of the crime.”

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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