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What’s next in this storybook opening to the 2011 season?

It started at Daytona where unheralded youngster Trevor Bayne drove the Wood Brothers’ Ford to victory in his second Sprint Cup start. The cheering and talk show appearance had hardly died down when the following week Jeff Gordon returned to victory lane at Phoenix. This one, his 83rd career win, raised a number of interesting possibilities.
Gordon’s Phoenix triumph tied him with Cale Yarborough for fifth on the all-time win list. His next win will tie him

with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third, behind only David Pearson at 105 wins and Richard Petty with 200.
In breaking a 66 race winless drought, Gordon has now won at least one race in 16 of his 19 full-time seasons. In 14 of those he has won multiple races.
Gordon took the lead for good at Phoenix on lap 304, the 28th lead change of the race. That made two consecutive races where the lead change record crumbled.
The win at Phoenix vaulted Gordon from 26th after Daytona to fifth place in the points standings.
Last Saturday at Las Vegas, Mark Martin, the Nationwide series all-time race winner, made his return to the Nationwide Series. Las Vegas hometown favorite Kyle Busch, with 44 Nationwide Wins, is closing fast on Martin’s record. Busch posted his 44th series win at Phoenix a week ago.
Mark Martin plans a limited schedule on the Nationwide circuit this season for Turner Motor Sports. His last two Nationwide Series wins came at Las Vegas in 2005 and 2008.
At the end of the day, Martin was part of another storybook finish in the young season. In an unlikely finish, he stretched his fuel mileage to capture his fourth Nationwide win at Las Vegas.
After race leader Brad Keselowski cut a tire and hit the wall on the final lap of the Sam’s Town 300, Martin cruised to the checkered flag, posting his 49th Nationwide victory. Justin Allgar finished second, with Keselowski limping home in third place.
Further keeping the storybook-ending theme going was Danica Patrick. After falling more than two laps down earlier in the race, Patrick rallied to finish fourth, posting the best result ever for a female driver in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Patrick’s previous best finish was 14th at Daytona in February. For what it’s worth, I heard a comment by commentator Robin Miller on Speed TV’s Wind Tunnel show a week ago that Danica Patrick will be coming to NASCAR full time in 2012. I guess it’s all about marketing.
When you’re talking racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, you can’t get away without talking about the brothers who grew up in Las Vegas and became two of the sport’s brightest stars, Kurt and Kyle Busch. Heading into last Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, the Busch brothers sat atop the Sprint Cup points race. Points leader Kyle led older brother Kurt by 3 points. It’s the first time family members have held the top two spots since after the 1988 Daytona 500 when Bobby Allison and son Davey finished first and second in the season opener.
Their hometown track has not been particularly kind to the Busch brothers. Kyle has seven starts, a win in 2009, three top fives and four top 10s. Brother Kurt has had worse luck. In 10 races, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion is winless with one top five and two top 10s. His best finish was third in 2005. He has struggled there of late. His last four finishes were 26th in 2007, 38th in 2008, 23rd in 2009 and 35th last year.
You may reach Pete Barber
at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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