AP Auto Racing Writer
It's Kyle Busch's world once again in NASCAR and everybody else is just sharing track space with him. Until this weekend at Kansas, of course.
Then everyone gets to see just how far Busch has really come in the last 17 months.
Busch won both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races in Texas last weekend, his second sweep this season, in a huge comeback at the site of his 2011 NASCAR suspension for deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race.
Now he carries all that momentum into Kansas, his worst track on the circuit. Busch is winless at Kansas in 11 career starts, has only two top-10 finishes and wrecked there during Chase for the Sprint Cup championship races in 2007 and 2010. He also crashed last season.
Still, Busch just picked up his first career win at Texas Motor Speedway and he wants to do the same at Kansas, where his average finish is 21st and is one of only six active tracks where he's yet to win a Cup race.
"It's not that you might not like a track or might not like a race ... it's just a matter of trying to figure it out," Busch said. "Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at (Kansas) a lot like Michigan. That's a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago."
In years past, Busch has dreaded going to Kansas. Not this year.
A year after grabbing just one win across all three NASCAR national series, Busch is red hot again. He's got two wins in Cup and has won four of the six Nationwide races. He's also got five top-five finishes in both series.
Running well cures all driver ailments, so Busch's mood is obviously considerably better of late. But team owner Joe Gibbs said Busch's maturity has been better for quite some time.
"I think back to last year at the end of the year, Kyle probably had some of the most bitter disappointments, I think, that's happened to us in 22 years," Gibbs said. "We missed the Chase. We had Watkins Glen won, go to the last lap and get in somebody else's oil. We had some issues mechanically during the year that cost us.
"I think last year at the end of the year, Kyle really handled all of those things about as good as you could handle them. I think it showed real maturity, and I think that kind of set the course for this year."
So he heads into Kansas with an open mind and last year's race -- when he was leading before he spun on the new track surface -- fresh in his memory.
"I'm looking forward to Kansas with the roll that we're on," he said. "I thought we were running decent there last year ... so, hopefully, we have a good car like that this time around and I don't make a mistake like that. But, you know, Kansas is newly repaved. It's got a winter on it, now, so we'll see how that changes things. But I still expect it to be fast."
NO SOPHMORE SLUMP: With so many questions about a potential "sophomore slump," Courtney Force couldn't help but worry about this season.
"It was getting in my head after doing all these interviews, everyone is going, 'Going into your second year, you think you're going to have a sophomore slump?'" she said. "Wait, I didn't know about that. I hope not."
So far, so good for Force, who heads into this weekend's NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord leading the Funny Car standings. She won the season-opener at Pomona and used a runner-up finish two weeks ago in Las Vegas to move to the top of the standings.
"It's definitely a good feeling to come out and be in the points lead only the fourth race in," she said. "I'm definitely working twice as hard because I think we've got a good team, I think we have a lot of potential."
Her next challenge is at zMax with its unique four-lane configuration, which Force embraced after her first visit last season.
"I love that it's different," she said. "Although it's going to be nerve-racking because there's so much going on, so many other cars, lanes to focus on, the Christmas tree to really kind of relearn at this track."