I took a trip the other day, but really not that far -- from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to midtown, and into the heads of the 12 NASCAR racers still in the hunt for the 2010 Sprint Cup points championship.
I interviewed the usual suspects -- Jimmie Johnson, leading the pack after Fontana, CA, with just six races to go (of the season's 36) and on-track to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive driving title; Jeff Gordon, in fourth place and perhaps NASCAR's most famous or infamous driver, depending upon whom you talk with; and Tony Stewart, in fifth place, who has raced in both the IndyCar and NASCAR series.
But one top driver who didn't survive the story edit was Kurt Busch. In a rare situation, both he and his younger brother Kyle are in the final 12 "race for the chase" drivers this year. Rather than chat about the championship, though, I was interested in how one competes wheel to wheel, Sunday after Sunday, with one's own flesh and blood. Here's what Kurt had to say:
When he's next to me on the track, there's a smile that comes over my face, knowing him and his approach, how he drives. I think I've got him under control -- you know, the older brother thing. We're out there to race each other as teammates, both on the track [Kurt drives for Penske Racing, Kyle for Joe Gibbs Racing] and in life. And we do that--on the short tracks and on the superspeedways, bump-drafting together. Yet, he's the first guy I want to beat at the end of the day. I'm the bigger brother and he's supposed to finish second to me.
Fair enough. Classic sibling rivalry. Then there's the question of style. One would expect Kurt, 32, the elder by seven years, to be more patient. Is he?
Kyle is definitely on the gas no matter what division he's racing in. He's out there for kills in the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. He just wants those wins. My approach is a bit more mellow. Now if I have a shot to actually win a race, you're going to have to deal with that old-style Kurt Busch, elbows out and running aggressive, bringing a different tenacity to the front of the pack. Where Kyle and I differ is sometimes I just settle in to get the solid finish where he'll go all out for the win and end up with a tough finish. In the Cup Series, though, he's learning to mellow a bit too.
Interesting stuff, what you might expect from an older brother. What amazes me, though, is that no single mention is made of safety. Remember, these guys compete inches apart, at 200 mph, racing for their lives. Perhaps those words are best left unspoken.
Enough for my first blog posting. Stick with me -- I will get the hang of it. But down the line do expect me to push the boundaries of travel. It doesn't always have to be physical. (And, for the record, Kurt Busch is in sixth place 47 points ahead of -- you guessed it -- brother Kyle, in ninth.)
The article was posted at http://www.the-mia.com/PEDAL-TO-THE-MEDAL.
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