NHRA stop no drag for Busch

NASCAR veteran does surprisingly well in cameo

March 16, 2011

NASCAR drivers are a restless breed.

They often complain about the long grind of the season, yet when they have a chance to make it a Blockbuster night and wind down with friends and family, they end up chasing more speed.

Isn't that right, Kurt Busch?

Busch competed in the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. over the weekend, and managed to put a scare into the field of veterans who do this kind of thing for a living.

Busch, competing as a professional drag racer for the first time, nearly pulled off a huge upset against veteran Erica Ender, who edged Busch by half a car length on the quarter-mile drag strip Sunday. Enders, the No. 5 seed, covered the finish line in 6.538 seconds. Busch, seeded 12th, crossed in 6.541 seconds.

But Busch still had the fifth-fastest time in the opening round.

"It was a great experience, to be competitive like we were," Busch said. "It was a solid burnout, it was a great staging. I felt like (Enders) was taking a long time to jump in and stage, so I rolled in first. It was the best (data) graph we produced in all of testing and in all of our rounds here at Gainesville, with our shift marks and everything else. It was the best run we've ever put together, and we just came up short."

Onward, upward: Ryan Newman is on a roll. After posting finishes of 11th or better in nine of the season's final 13 races, Newman is now ranked fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings.

"It is my best three-race start to the season since my Daytona 500 victory in 2008," Newman said. "Honestly, even though we haven't won a race yet this season, it's even better than that because of how strong we have run each race and where we have finished."

Junior is where? Psst: Don't look now — you might jinx him — but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is running 10th in the early Sprint Cup standings. This marks the first time that Earnhardt has been in the top 10 since April of last season.

NASCAR is encouraged that ratings are up so far, but the best bit of good news for the sport would be for its most popular driver to be among its most competitive ones. And that's all on Earnhardt to make it happen.

George Diaz

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