Dealing with age limits

Kyle Busch, 18, learns to
deal with NASCAR age limits

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

SPARTA, Ky. (May 17) – Kyle Busch hasn’t exactly had a typical teenage existence. Busch, 18, didn’t make it to his senior prom last year, and he wasn’t able to accompany his girlfriend to her prom this year.
Instead of donning a black tie, Busch was putting on a helmet. And instead of hanging out with friends, “Everyday after school it would just be going home and working on a race car for the next weekend,” Busch said.
That, or studying. Busch graduated a year early with honors from Durango High School in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev.

Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch

Kurt Busch, left, and
Kyle Busch with mom

Busch’s dedication and maturity has paid off. Fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, the young driver is running in a limited of number of ARCA RE/MAX Series and NASCAR Busch Series races this year. He will participate in the Busch Series full time in 2004.
Busch’s name probably sounds familiar to many Winston Cup fans. That’s because his older brother, Kurt Busch, has been winning his way to the top of the ranks of the series over the past two seasons. Already this year, he has captured two Winston Cup victories for the Roush Racing team.
But that’s Kurt. Kyle claims his own right to fame, especially after outdueling ARCA four-time season champion Frank Kimmel for the May 10 victory in the “Channel 5-205” race at the Kentucky Speedway. It was the younger Busch’s second ARCA title this season, both coming at the expense of reigning champ Kimmel.
Kyle Busch entered the NASCAR scene when he was just 16, competing in six NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races with Roush Racing before NASCAR officials abruptly mandated an age minimum of 18 to compete in any of their sanctioned series. Busch, who had gotten off to an impressive start with two top-10 finishes in the series, was upset by the policy change.
When asked why he thought the change was made, he said, “I know what it was about. It was about a tobacco issue,” referencing age in relation to the advertising of tobacco products.
But rather than bemoan circumstances beyond his control, Busch decided instead to try a different route. “It was very devastating when it happened, but we’ve gone on from that,” he said.
Going on, in 2002 Busch joined the American Speed Association (ASA) Series. He finished eighth in point standings for the year with five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He also ran in one Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) RE/MAX Series race, finishing 12th in the EasyCare Vehicle Service 100 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.
Although Busch didn’t turn 18 until May 2, 2003, his winning reputation had already made him a hot commodity. Roush Racing, with whom he had previously raced, made an offer. But despite temptation, Busch declined.
“They wanted me for nine years, and I didn’t feel I could commit to that.”
Instead, in February 2003 Busch joined Hendrick Motorsports, which fields No. 1 contender and Winston Cup superstar Jeff Gordon. Busch plans to race in seven ARCA events and six NASCAR Busch Series events with Hendrick this season.
“Everything’s been going exceptionally well,” Busch said of his experience with the Hendrick Motorsports team.
Driving the No. 87 ditech.com Chevrolet in ARCA, he has already won two of the seven races in which he is scheduled to compete. Prior to the May 10 victory in Sparta, Ky., on April 11, Busch nabbed the pole and set a track record at Nashville Superspeedway before winning the PFG Lester 150.
Busch was scheduled to debut in the NASCAR Busch Series on May 24 in the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., driving Joe Nemechek’s NEMCO Motorsports No. 87 Chevrolet.
If Busch’s success continues, he may one day go head to head against brother, Kurt, in a Winston Cup Series race. Until then, he’s not too proud to ask his older sibling for a few tips now and then.
“If I go to a race track he’s already run at, he can give me pointers,” Busch said.

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