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Busch and Tryson continue to race hard

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kurt Busch and Pat Tryson had every reason to coast through the season's final 10 races in a long farewell before the crew chief bolts to a new team next year.

Only they promised not to go through the motions, and Busch's win at Texas Motor Speedway showed they kept their word. The victory Sunday moved Busch to fourth in the standings and gave him a solid shot at celebrating a top-five finish when NASCAR's season-ending awards ceremony makes its debut in Busch's hometown of Las Vegas.

Not too shabby considering Tryson is only allowed inside Penske Racing once a week, for the Tuesday team meeting. He's been banned from the shop the rest of the time as Penske officials prepare for 2010 without him.

Tryson decided in late August to move to Michael Waltrip Racing next season to crew chief Martin Truex Jr., news that broke just a week before the start of the championship race. Busch wasn't pleased with the timing, or Tryson's decision, and everyone assumed the knee-jerk reaction would cost Busch any shot at the title.

Instead, they raced hard and overcame any limitations placed on Tryson's preparation and planning. They also proved everyone wrong who predicted that Tryson's lame duck status would keep Busch out of Victory Lane.

"Pat, great job for you," team owner Roger Penske told Tryson after Sunday's race.

"Appreciate the commitment you made in these last races. I want to say that publicly. I know you're a first-class guy. What a great win for you and for the team."

Tryson simply thanked Penske for the kind words and the subject was dropped.

It's the same way Tryson has deflected talk about his departure since it became public knowledge. He's chosen not to harp on it and instead make sure Busch had the very best race car possible each week of the Chase.

That was evident early when Busch opened the Chase with consecutive top-10 finishes. There was an 11th at Kansas that hurt him in the standings, but he came back for another pair of top-10s. His only real off day was at Martinsville, where he's struggled the last three years, and finished 17th.

His Chase has been good enough to make Busch look back at Talladega two weeks ago with immense regret: He had a top-10 finish locked up on the final lap, only to be wrecked by new teammate Brad Keselowski and finish 30th.

If Busch had brought his car home where he'd been running, he'd be a whole lot closer than 171 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

"I'm kicking myself for what happened," he said. "We find ourselves too far behind, but we're still within a reasonable distance."

But Busch and Tryson have plenty to be proud of, most notably the professionalism they've shown during their farewell run together. Neither talks much publicly about why Tryson is leaving, but the crew chief has been absolutely adamant that it has nothing at all to do with Busch or his reputation as an emotional driver who is very hard on team personnel.

It leaves Busch in a bind of having to replace a team leader who guided him to five wins and two Chase berths while probably resisting the urge to strangle him during one of his mid-race meltdowns. No matter how hard Busch might be on his team, though, the 2004 Chase winner is still the best option out there for a crew chief looking for a winner.

And that's why Victory Lane was a bit emotional Sunday night.

"Right now, with the way that we're situated, it's bittersweet because, hey, Pat is leaving," Busch said. "We wish that we could stick together. We want to get the best we can out of these last few races."