Season Review: Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch didn’t let the sophomore jinx get the best of him in 2006.

Busch followed up his Rookie of the Year season by qualifying for his first "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" after scoring one win and 15 top 10s in the first 26 races.

"I'm not into the 'sophomore jinx', we had a ‘freshman jinx’ as far as I could tell," Busch said as the 2006 season prepared to take the green flag.

Although Busch didn’t match his season high total in wins, with two, he was able to finish a career-best 10th in the standings in his second full season behind the wheel of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet.

But Busch’s trip towards the top wasn’t an easy one, that all started with an on track rivalry with Tony Stewart right out of the gate.

Things got off to bad start when the two clashed at Daytona, first in the Budweiser Shootout and then in the Daytona 500. The bad blood boiled over long after "Speedweeks" ended before Stewart and Busch sat down and talked things over.

Apparently someone didn't take notes at the meeting.

The pair got into it again in Busch’s hometown, Las Vegas, a tangle that escalated into a full-blown war complete with Stewart waving his fist out his window at Busch. Stewart's day was finally ended when the damage caused by the duo's contact caused a tire rub, which sent the 2005 NEXTEL Cup champion home with a 21st-place finish.

“He's (Stewart) in his race car trying to run his race and I'm in my race car trying to run my race,” Busch said after capturing his first top five of 2006 with a third-place finish. ‘Sometimes, conflicts connect and you have that."

Following Vegas, Busch went on to score two more top 10s at Bristol and Martinsville before meeting his next rivalry on the racetrack at Phoenix.

After winning his only pole of the season, Busch was caught up in one of two crashes that happened on lap 100, causing the red flag to come out.

Busch ran into the side of Casey Mears' car after NASCAR red flagged the Saturday night race after he felt Mears caused the crash that wound up putting his pole-winning car 45 laps down after it was repaired and returned to action.

Four races later in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Busch and Mears clashed again.

Mears and Busch were running second and fourth, respectively, when Mears' Dodge clipped the frontstretch wall and slide into Busch, turning him around and sending his hard into the outside wall.

Busch broke away from NASCAR officials trying to hold him back from running on the track after he exited the car and weakly tossed part of his HANS device at Mears as he drove by.

"Just a very frustrating moment for me," Busch said back in May. "I had a really great race car that I thought could have won the race."

After his altercation at Lowe’s, Busch cooled down his temper during a hot summer stretch that saw him post his only win of the season at New Hampshire Int’l Speedway.

The victory, which was his third consecutive top-three finish in the month of July, boosted Busch four positions to fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points standings. He was able to continue the hot streak by posting six finishes of 12th or better on his way to clinching a birth in the "Chase".

But the streak ended there.

Busch, who started the "Chase" fourth in the points, saw his title hopes go up in smoke in the first two races with finishes of 38th and 40th, respectively, at New Hampshire and Dover.

"We're done," Busch said after losing an engine near the halfway point of the Dover race.

Busch went on to record three top 10s in the "Chase" en route to his 10th-place spot in the final standings. And with Tony Stewart in the picture once again, Busch capped off his not so stellar post-season with a trip into the wall giving him a 38th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead.

"The No. 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), he got by the No. 20 (Tony Stewart) pretty easily there, he let him go, but when I got to the No. 20, he must be mad at me for last week, talking bad about him, but whatever.

"Daytona 500, 2007, here we come."

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