Kurt in Command

by Monte Dutton

At least for now, Kurt Busch has the upper hand in the family.

Kurt and his younger brother, Kyle, are both legitimate stars in NASCAR’s Sprint by Monte Dutton Cup Series. Kurt won the 2004 Nextel (now Sprint) Cup championship, and his second consecutive victory in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Kobalt Tools 500 was the 21st of his career. Kyle, nearly seven years younger, has won 16 times in the sport’s premier level.

There’s another notable connection. Kurt Busch’s crew chief, Steve Addington, was Kyle Busch’s crew chief until this season. After Kyle fell short of making the Chase in 2009, Dave Rogers replaced Addington… and Kurt hired him.

Kurt Busch made the Chase last year, finishing fourth in the final point standings. Crew chief Pat Tryson moved to Team Red Bull and driver Martin Truex Jr. at season’s end.’ 

“I’ll tell one thing that changed, and it changed for the better,” said Kurt. “Steve Addington has taught me how to drive cars differently, how to look at them differently…. When you get ‘up on the wheel’ for somebody like Steve, good things happen.”

“I’m still great friends with Kyle,” said Addington, “but it’s a good feeling. It’s a relief in a certain way.”

Kurt Busch said his latest victory was particularly satisfying. “I feel like we won the race outright,” he said. “No doubt we did our job on pit road. No doubt we did our job on long runs, and I think we hit the right combination for restarts. That’s what I’m proudest of.”

Thanks to NASCAR’s new overtime policies and several late crashes, the race ran 16 extra laps. Addington said there was no strategy capable of preparing for such a scenario.

“We tried to keep the balance on our car,” he said. “We were good on fuel for all three green-white-checkered restarts, even if we went to [the limit of] three.

“We just stuck with what we’d been doing all day.” But Kurt Busch said this was no time to relax. “We need to have some more consistency,” he said. “We’ve been competitive in three out of the four races so far, and the race we weren’t as competitive as the others was our best finish [before Atlanta].

“That’s what a championship team does.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@ ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

Kurt Busch won the spring Atlanta race for the second straight year, this time with Steve’  Addington, his brother’s former crew chief. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)