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Was No. 3 lucky for Busch?

June 10, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
Kyle Busch made NASCAR history over the weekend by running in three different series on three straight days at three different tracks.

The question is: Was it worth it?

The Nextel Cup points leader finished dead last at Pocono after crashing early in his final race of the weekend. It was the second Cup car that he banged en route to losing 121 points in the season standings.

The weekend started with Nextel Cup qualifying in Pennsylvania (Busch was 10th). Then he flew to Texas for a Craftsman Truck Series night race where he had his best finish of the triple-header (second).

Saturday morning, Busch was back at Pocono for Cup practice. He hit the pit wall, forcing him to go to a back-up car, forfeit his Top 10 qualifying spot and start the race from the back of the field.

That afternoon it was on to Nashville for the Nationwide Series race, where he finished 20th. Busch boarded a plane late Saturday night for a return trip to Pocono.

By then, his tri-state jet setting had to be more like jetlag with fatigue undoubtedly becoming a factor.

Yes, Kyle Busch is young and is accustomed to life in the fast lane. The 23-year-old probably doesn’t need as much sleep as some of his older competitors, but even the most energetic athletes would have trouble with that kind of travel schedule.

The grueling weekend did garner Busch tons of media hype, including his own daily blog on the NASCAR website.

The trifecta also shined a renewed light on two NASCAR series that do not usually get so much attention.

The coverage was similar to the buildup Tony Stewart received in 1999 when he ran the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, finishing in the Top 10 in both races. That included only two states and one time zone, not the cross-country hopping that Kyle Busch did last weekend.

Granted, with the new championship system, Busch does not have to be in first place in the Nextel Cup standings to have a shot at the title. He just has to finish in the top 12 to make the Chase for the Championship, at which time teams will be seeded for final 10 races.

But what about the what if’s? What if severe had weather forced his plane to be grounded? Or worse, what if he had been hurt in a truck crash? Would it have been worth sacrificing a solid run at Pocono, or even missing the rest of the season to have the historical distinction of attempting to run those three races?

Busch has a series-high four Cup wins this season, and he sits in the catbird seat for NASCAR’s most coveted crown. The Nextel Cup title could be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Why jeopardize that for one weekend of notoriety?

Few will remember his mediocre performance as NASCAR’s first triple-threat. But a Nextel Cup Championship would be unforgettable.

Goodman can be reached at Her column runs on Tuesdays.

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