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Long: All Kyle Busch does is win and win

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FONTANA, Calif. — The first time Kyle Busch won a professional race, the then-13-year-old thanked his older brother Kurt.

For not being in that race.

Twenty years later, Kurt went to Auto Club Speedway’s Victory Lane to congratulate Kyle on winning his 200th career NASCAR race.

“They’re all added up through his hard work, his dedication to perfection,” Kurt Busch said Sunday after finishing sixth to his brother.

Kyle Busch’s accomplishment will be debated. Some will suggest the accolades are hollow because many of his 147 wins in the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series came with superior equipment and against inferior competition. Others will look at his 53 Cup wins — which has him 11th on the all-time victory list — and note his talent is worthy of the praise heaped upon him.

Forget about the number 200, don’t let it distract you. And don’t let any discussion of comparing it to Richard Petty’s 200 Cup wins distract you. They’re different.

“Somebody asked me about whether or not I was the greatest of all time,” said Busch, the 2015 series champion who scored his first career Cup victory at this track. “I’m never going to self‑proclaim that. That’s for others to debate. 

“I would just like to be attributed or in that mix of the top five, top eight guys. I think by the time I’m all said and done, I could be in the top two or three of those guys of greatest of all time.”

But one thing to look at is what Busch is doing in Cup.

He has won 13 of the last 50 Cup races, dating back to his 2017 playoff victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That’s a 26 percent winning percentage. That’s ridiculous. But so are 200 career NASCAR wins (again, don’t let that number distract you).

Busch has accomplished his recent level of dominance in an era of ever-changing rules from stage racing to aerodynamic and horsepower alterations intended to keep cars closer together. He succeeds in an era where drivers can see the data on their competitors. No rule change has stopped Busch from winning.

“Take a look at football,” said Busch’s car owner, NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. “Take a look at football.  We have something going on over there.  We got a team that’s dominating things.”

Busch hasn’t reached the championship level domination of that team that Gibbs, a former coach of the Washington Redskins, wouldn’t let pass his lips, but it’s hard to argue what Busch has done in Cup lately.

“The thing you can count on in pro sports, everybody is coming,” Gibbs said. “You look at all those race teams out there and how good they are.”

Busch’s biggest competition — other than himself — was Team Penske, which had the top three cars at one point in the race. Instead Penske drivers finished second (Joey Logano), third (Brad Keselowski) and fifth (Ryan Blaney).

“It’s Team Penske and the 18 car,” Logano said of Busch. “They got something. They’ve got a good driver. They’ve got a good crew chief. They’re making good adjustments. They’re building good cars. You put something like that together, they win races.

“I wouldn’t say we’re far off. We’re right there and we’re leading laps as well. Today may have been his day. We’ll come back and fight hard next week.”

They couldn’t beat Busch on a day he cost himself the lead by speeding on pit road on Lap 123 in the 200-lap race. Busch dropped to 18th for the restart.

Stevens counseled his driver that there was enough time to make up the lost ground even in a race where the field got strung out the longer a green-flag run went.

Stevens has been Busch’s crew chief for 43 of Busch’s 200 NASCAR victories. Stevens knows when to coddle, when to push back and when to encourage. Such was the case during the final caution on Lap 165.

Busch, who was leading, debated a change to the car, saying he was afraid to free the car too much.

“Don’t be afraid,” Stevens told his driver.

Stevens later said: “I was really just busting his chops.”

Stevens explained.

“I didn’t want him to not tell me what the car was doing because we were learning about the magnitude of our changes,” Stevens said. “I didn’t want him to forecast his impression upon what we were going to do. I just wanted him to tell me what it was doing.”

The changes worked and Busch was back in front for the final 26 laps.

Then it was just a matter of time before he could sing.

“All I do is win, win and win no matter what,” Busch said on the radio after taking the checkered flag, reciting a line from DJ Khaled’s song “All I do is win.”

For as big as this victory was, there will soon be another race. Busch will compete in Saturday’s Truck race at Martinsville Speedway and the Cup race the following day.

There are more races to win.

“I think anything beyond this is just another number,” he said. “I mean, I could go lightly and say 250 (wins), or I could reach for the stars and say 300. What’s wrong with that?”

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Friends, family honor J.D. Gibbs at memorial service

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DAVIDSON, North Carolina — Melissa Gibbs stood before 1,200 people who came to celebrate the life of her husband, J.D. Gibbs, and focused on her four sons sitting in the front row.

Looking at Jackson, Miller, Jason and Taylor, she told them: “Nothing you achieve in life will impress me more than the way you cared for your dad. Even in his decline and in his passing, dad was still teaching you guys, long past the point he had anything to give. His life was shaping yours. You are men of character and make me incredibly proud.”

She paused, her voice softening with those final words.

Family and faith were pillars of J.D. Gibbs’ life and they were shared throughout an emotional service Friday that was held in a college basketball arena and attended by former Washington Redskins and those who worked with and competed against Gibbs’ teams in NASCAR.

Gibbs, co-founder and co-chairman of Joe Gibbs Racing, died Jan. 11 from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. He was 49.

Tears and laughter punctuated the service, which lasted close to 90 minutes.

Sniffles interrupted Joe Gibbs’ prayer as he spoke of his son. Jackson read entries of his dad’s journal through tears.

Then, there were the stories of J.D. Gibbs’ goofiness. Long-time friend Moose Valliere recalled the wild times he and J.D. had as kids – they’d stay up late, play video games, and make an occasional crank call.

“Clean ones,” Valliere quickly noted to laughs, while looking at J.D.’s parents, Joe and Pat Gibbs. 

“That was raising cain for J.D.,” Valliere said. “But we had a blast.”

Valliere also shared how Gibbs influenced his life and helped him with his faith from saying a prayer before every meal to “walk the walk” and value “Godly friendship.”

Melissa Gibbs

Melissa also used the service to remind those of the power of faith.

“You are here because his life mattered to you in someway,” Melissa told the crowd at Davidson College’s Belk Arena. “And I am standing before you to make sure his death does as well.

“I don’t intend to waste a bit of his suffering. It had meaning and value. Not that I wouldn’t take a time machine and a miracle cure to get back. But he’s gone and his struggle is over. Better than that, he is with God.”

Dave Alpern, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, also shared how his faith had been shaped by his long-time close friend, along with all the fun times they had together through the years. 

He ended his time on the stage by addressing J.D. Gibbs’ four sons.

“You’re dad’s nickname was ‘Son of’ “ Alpern said, noting J.D. Gibbs was the son of a Hall of Fame NFL coach. “Today, we pass the title of ‘Son of’ to you. Consider it a great honor to be considered the son of J.D. Gibbs.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses his role in sport on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t foresee himself being a great NASCAR President if ever offered the opportunity but said in a wide-ranging interview Thursday on “The Dan Patrick Show” that he’d like to have an influence on the sport.

Earnhardt, who is in Las Vegas for tonight’s Cup Awards program (7 p.m. ET, red carpet NASCAR America special, followed by Awards show at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN), spoke to Patrick by phone for more than 20 minutes.

MORE: Dale Jr. named 2018 Daytona 500 Grand Marshal

One of the questions Patrick asked Earnhardt is if he’d like to be NASCAR President some day.

“Would I want to be? I don’t really know,” Earnhardt said. “It’s not as easy to come up with a solution for everything. A lot of people have opinions about things that are going on in the sport. The sport is in a really good place, in my opinion personally, but everybody has opinions on what could be different. It’s not really easy to come up with those solutions. The other side of that, too, no matter what you come up with, people are going to bash it. You’re never going to win. I think it would be interesting to be in those conversations, to be in those board room meetings to understand a little bit more about what’s going on and how they come to decisions that they come to.

“I don’t think I would want to be a president of NASCAR, nor do I think I would be a great president for the sport. I think I could be just underneath that in maybe a Mike Helton style role or a Steve O’Donnell style role where I have some influence, but I think the France family … always should be the leaders of the sport. They were the ones that brought this together and created it. I think it would be fun, and I do believe it’s something that I would be good at if I could be an influence in the sport someway, somehow.”

Earnhardt also talked about his childhood, his father, his early job as a mechanic, what he’ll  miss most about not driving full-time in Cup, the Washington Redskins and hanging out with Tony Stewart in Las Vegas this week.

Watch the video above and below for what Earnhardt had to say to Dan Patrick.