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The new Kyle Busch is ready for good old Darlington

Last Saturday night in Richmond, Kyle Busch got out of his car after winning a Sprint Cup race for the first time since last August in Bristol and introduced the world to the new Kyle Busch.

Kyle Busch
Winning the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway doesn't exempt a driver from earning more than his share of Darlington Stripes. Just ask Kyle Busch (18), who won at Darlington in 2008 but finished 34th last year. (John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Last Saturday night in Richmond, Kyle Busch got out of his car after winning a Sprint Cup race for the first time since last August in Bristol and introduced the world to the new Kyle Busch.

It's a Busch, he insisted, who has learned the virtues of patience on a racetrack.

The timing for implementing those virtues could not be better because this weekend's race is the Showtime Southern 500 and it is held at Darlington Raceway.

Darlington, as its slogan tells us, is the track that can be too tough to tame. Without patience on the bizarre 1.366-mile, narrow, egg-shaped oval, Darlington is impossible to tame.

"You just have to be patient," Busch said of historic Darlington. "You just have to bide your time, and I wasn't very good at that last year (he finished 34th and 64 laps off the pace). You've got to make sure you keep working on your car."

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That is exactly what Busch did last weekend at Richmond.

He had a car that looked great early, average-at-best during the middle part of the race and then good enough at the end to pass Jeff Gordon on a restart and get what his crew chief, Dave Rogers, called "a character-building" victory.

Busch said the old Kyle might have lost his patience during the middle part of the race and done something destructive--something that would have resulted in a character-destroying loss.

Not the new Kyle, his team owner said. Not the patient Kyle.

"I think one thing that's helped Kyle is winning that Nationwide championship last year," Joe Gibbs said after Richmond. "I think he had real patience there. There were days where he had to take third, fourth.

"I think this year--had this been last year with three or four of the things that happened to us in some of the races this year, particularly this one--I think you probably would have seen a different reaction.

"I appreciate the new Kyle."

But Richmond is not Darlington. Richmond is not as tricky or quirky or technically difficult as Darlington.

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Especially for Busch.

Busch does have a victory at the South Carolina track. It came in 2008.

But an easy, clean victory it was not. In fact, it may have been more the result of luck than wonderful skill.

"I remember I tried a bunch of times to knock down the fence," said Busch, who will head into Saturday night's race third in the points standings. "I think I got a Darlington Stripe on about every corner in that race. Fortunately for me, I just never hit too hard, and I was able to come through there and still win."

Last year, Busch did hit so hard that he was not able to win there. He smacked into dirty old Darlington so hard he spent a large portion of the evening sitting in the garage.

But he also knows even the best do that at the track with the ominous nicknames.

"You look at racers from the past," Busch said. "Jeff Gordon's car was killed on the side when he won (the 1997 Winston Million). So was Jeff Burton's, when he won there in the rain. There is a lot of heritage and history to that place, and it's an honor to race there because of that and how unique this place is and how many great drivers have won there."

The secret to winning there, Busch said, is the one that has made the new Kyle, the new Kyle.

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Fast facts

What: Showtime Southern 500

Where: Darlington Raceway

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, 6 p.m.

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.366-mile oval

Race distance: 367 laps/501 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

Qualifying: Friday, 4:10 p.m.

2009 winner: Mark Martin

2009 polesitter: Matt Kenseth

Points leaders: 1. Kevin Harvick, 1,467; 2. Jimmie Johnson, 1,457; 3. Kyle Busch, 1,358; 4. Matt Kenseth, 1,348; 5. Greg Biffle, 1,334; 6. Jeff Gordon, 1,305; 7. Denny Hamlin, 1,268; 8. Kurt Busch, 1,255; 9. Jeff Burton, 1,247; 10. Mark Martin, 1,242; 11. Carl Edwards, 1,227; 12. Clint Bowyer, 1,213.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
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