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True, he has only himself to blame for being under such scrutiny. But the reality is, if throwing a water bottle is the worst thing Busch has done in this rocky start to the season, he should be applauded for the gains he’s made in keeping his temper under control.

Intensity and an inability to accept mediocrity has always been Busch’s main flaw, and settling for an average finish is beyond him. But his new job with Phoenix Racing is forcing him to celebrate minor victories, such as finishing 15th at Phoenix two weeks ago.

Although he seems convinced he’s got a black cloud hanging over his head, he acknowledges the bad luck can’t follow him forever.

“There are going to be our shining moments where we put a solid race together, be a top-10, a top-five,” Busch said. “Phoenix was 15th, that’s exactly what we needed. Anybody and everybody can wreck at Daytona. Vegas, we just were on pit road when caution came out, got a flat tire, had an air hose problem, then popped a left rear when debris came flying at us. That’s four things that can happen in any race, and we had them happen all in one race.

“That’s the way it’s working right now, and can’t do anything except just keep going. The only way we are ever going to get through this is just keep plugging away. It’s just the way racing goes sometimes.”

Now Busch has Bristol in front of him, and this was long ago his best track.

Busch has five wins at the bullring, including four victories in five races from 2002 to 2004. But his last win was in 2006, and Busch has just one top-five finish in the 11 races since that last trip to Victory Lane.

Busch starts 27th in Sunday’s race, and that’s about where he ran in Saturday’s two practice sessions.

He’s taking an open mind into the race.

“It’s wide-open with how the results can end up,” he said. “You can be running around eighth to 10th all day, have a loose lug nut on your last pit stop, be the last car on the lead lap and finish 22nd. I’m dead serious. So my key is to be on the lead lap all day, and then race at the end. That’s what I am shooting for.”