By Jared Turner
Love him, hate him or indifferent toward him, it’s time for everyone to stand up and appreciate the job Kyle Busch has done since returning to his No. 18 Toyota in mid-May. The same Busch who missed the season’s first 11 Sprint Cup Series races while recovering from extensive leg and foot injuries suffered in the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona has won three of the past four races and all but assured himself a berth in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Although “haters are still gonna hate,” as they say, Busch has shown a will to win displayed only by athletes of the highest caliber. While it would have been perfectly understandable and even acceptable if Busch had struggled in his return after such a long and grueling absence, Busch hasn’t made excuses. He’s simply gone out and done what he had to do to give himself a chance to run for a championship in a year when the odds were stacked against him. And for that he should be commended and respected, even by those who don’t cheer for him on Sundays.
If you want to understand how far Dale Earnhardt Jr. has come in his mindset, look no further than his reaction to a fifth-place finish on Sunday at New Hampshire. As recent as two or three years ago, NASCAR’s most popular driver would have been ecstatic with such an outcome – especially after struggling with his car’s handling for much of the weekend. But instead of celebrating, Earnhardt talked after the race about how much he wanted to win at New Hampshire and how much all of the Hendrick Motorsports cars need some extra speed. Looking for a hungry driver who is not easily satisfied? Look no further than the driver of the No. 88 Chevy.