He¡¦s been praised by the biggest names in the sport, described as fearless, exceptionally talented and NASCAR¡¦s next big star.
It¡¦s both flattering and humbling, and maybe even a little surreal considering where Kyle Busch was this time last year.
But his newfound acceptance isn¡¦t what Busch is after. He just wants to race.
¡§I think the most time that you can get on the track is obviously beneficial,¡¨ Busch said. ¡§And for me, it¡¦s fun. I¡¦d rather go out there and race than I would sit in the motor home and not do anything and watch the race on TV.
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¡§It¡¦s just about getting out there and getting my hands dirty and trying to get some racing laps in.¡¨
He¡¦s done that through the first five weeks of this season, competing in all 13 NASCAR races that have been held in Cup, Trucks and the Nationwide Series.
And instead of taking the weekend off with the rest of the Sprint Cup Series, he¡¦ll run in the Nationwide race this Saturday in Nashville.
And Busch isn¡¦t just making laps. He¡¦s been out front every time he¡¦s on the track.
He¡¦s got a Truck Series win, he gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup Series victory, and sits atop the points standings in both of those series. Then last week in Bristol, he wrestled his car home to a 17th-place finish after his power steering failed ¡V while he was leading the race ¡V with 150 laps to go.
¡§He has seemed to adapt to all of this in a way that nobody has in a long time,¡¨ former champion Dale Jarrett said.
¡§He¡¦s fearless and has that youth about him. He doesn¡¦t think that a race car can ever get out from under him, and he drives it to that limit every single time. That¡¦s a quality that not everyone has.
¡§Obviously, he has to win some more races and race for that championship ... to say he is our next superstar. He¡¦s right there on the verge of it.¡¨
The compliments were few and far between this time last year, when Busch was starting the final phase of his self-destruction at Hendrick Motorsports.
It had been a rocky four years since he joined the team as an 18-year-old in 2003. He ran for wins on the track, but often acted like a spoiled brat off it. It all finally became too much for Rick Hendrick this time last year, in a series of embarrassments to the conservatively professional organization.
Busch¡¦s downfall hit high speed when he won NASCAR¡¦s debut of the Car of Tomorrow at March in Bristol, then trashed the vehicle on national TV from Victory Lane. Three weeks later, he stormed out of the track at Texas following an accident that sent his car to the garage for repairs.
When the crew made enough repairs to get it back on the track, they had to ask Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was also out of the race, to jump behind the wheel.
Busch¡¦s aggressive driving tore up a pair of race cars at Talladega two weeks later, then wrecked with his brother, Kurt, in the All-Star race the next month.
A frustrated Hendrick had seen enough from his wild child, and decided Busch¡¦s immense talent level didn¡¦t outweigh his immaturity. If Busch could be tamed, Hendrick conceded he wouldn¡¦t be the one to do it.
Cut loose in an industry-stunning dismissal that caught Busch totally off guard, he picked himself up and began pounding the pavement for a new seat. It took mere hours for him to learn he was NASCAR¡¦s most wanted driver ¡V a kid every owner believed would win championships for years to come.
His whirlwind free agency led him to visit all the powerful teams, and he finally settled on Joe Gibbs Racing. The process of allowing team owners to get to know him was enlightening for Busch.
¡§It was pretty special,¡¨ he said. ¡§Everybody got a taste of exactly who I am, and I think all that did was help my stature throughout the garage area.¡¨
Now people understand what makes Busch tick. He can be difficult to deal with, but much like new teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, it¡¦s all in the pursuit of winning championships.
New crew chief Steve Addington, who scored the first Cup win of his career with Busch two weeks ago in Atlanta, understands the exuberance of this lightning fast start to the season won¡¦t last forever. Busch will eventually boil over, and he knows it.
¡§The guys love him to death. I believe they¡¦d walk through fire for him right now,¡¨ Addington said. ¡§You know, I warned them. I said, ¡¥He¡¦s going to go off on us at some point here „mbut just let it roll off your back. He¡¦s just competitive, wants to win races.¡¨¡¦
When the likely eruption comes, it probably won¡¦t create a firestorm the way it so often did at Hendrick. The Gibbs organization isn¡¦t as demanding when it comes to corporate image, and the team can tolerate the tantrums that often come from talented drivers.
Then again, Busch is perhaps poised to cut down on the drama he so often created for himself. He¡¦s happy at Gibbs, where the team owners are genuinely concerned with keeping him that way.
¡§I¡¦m happy with where I¡¦m at and being in my own skin and being able to do the things that I want to do and being supported in that,¡¨ Busch said.
¡§I like racing Trucks and Nationwide, and before (with Hendrick) it was almost pulling teeth to try to get in some truck stuff. J.D. (Gibbs) is pulling his hair out still because I like to do it so much, but he supports it still and tries to help me go out there in order to run faster.
¡§I think it¡¦s only been able to help and benefit me. And with me being more relaxed on Fridays and Saturdays, it just makes Sunday that much more fun.¡¨