When most people think about NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut, they envision four-time series champion Jeff Gordon or reigning champ Jimmie Johnson.




That doesn't concern Kyle Busch. He's just happy to be part of the stock-car powerhouse, racing in the shadows of his more famous teammates.




Heading into Saturday night's race at Darlington, Gordon is leading the Nextel Cup standings, with Johnson second. Between them, they have won six of the first 10 races this season.




Busch, who turned 22 on May 2 and is already in his third full season in Cup, has fared poorly this season only in comparison with his older teammates.




He won the inaugural Car of Tomorrow event at Bristol and has six top 10s already, including second last Sunday at Richmond.




But, in some ways, it's been a very frustrating year so far for Busch.




Busch, who also is running a fairly heavy Busch Series schedule, has crashed hard six times already in 2007. Three of them have come in the developmental series, and that includes a truly spectacular &

and frightening &

crash two weeks ago at Talladega.




In that big wreck, Busch was hit and veered sharply into the outside wall, skidded on his roof back down the banking into the infield grass and began flipping and barrel-rolling as the car appeared to disintegrate around him. The hit was so hard, it cracked his head and neck restraint system.




But the youngster walked away without injury and, seemingly, without any mental scars, either.




"It was a rough ride," he said after viewing the video. "Your head bouncing around between the headrests and stuff like that, anyway. From even holding on as much as you could, you still got it bounced around and tossed around so it was a rough ride. It went along a lot faster on the video than it did in real life."




People keep asking him what he thought after he saw the crashed car, but Busch has yet to look at it in person.




"They actually told (the No. 5 team) to leave it alone," Busch explained. "I think they're going to put it in the museum next to (Ken) Schrader's car because there's only been two Hendrick cars that have been on their lid and Schrader and I are the two."




After that wild ride, Busch had to get into his Cup car the next day for the feature race on the same track. And, again, he crashed.




"There's not much I can do about it," Busch said. "You just have to put it behind you and keep going."




He did that by bouncing back to almost win at Richmond, trailing Johnson across the finish line, just ahead of Denny Hamlin and Gordon.




The crashes are only part of this season's frustrations, though.




Last month in Texas, where Busch crashed his primary car and had to switch to his backup, he also hit the wall in the backup after working his way through most of the 43-car field. Busch, thinking his race day was over, left the track even as his team was repairing the battered car.




Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was also out of the race, was recruited to finish out the event for the absent Busch and wound up moving him up one more spot and gaining three additional points for the young driver.




"It was a mix-up in communications," crew chief Alan Gustafson said. "That's all behind us now. We all learn from our mistakes and Kyle and me and the team all learned some lessons about communications."




And, obviously, not everything has gone poorly for Busch in 2007.




Despite running only nine of the 11 Busch races so far, the younger brother of 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch is sixth in the points in that series with five top fives and six top 10s, although no victories.




But even that is still frustrating because Busch believes he could be even higher in both series with a little bit of luck.




Asked how many races he could have won already this year &

or at least contended for the victory &

Busch said, "In the Busch Series, probably every single one of them. In the Cup Series, probably Daytona. We had a good shot there. But we've had a good car just about everywhere, and there were other races we could have gotten a lot better result."




One that particularly stings is the Busch race at Las Vegas, where he was leading off the final turn and crashed after Jeff Burton caught and bumped past him on the last straightaway. Busch crossed the finish line backward but in second before bouncing off the wall.




"All I want to do is win races and solidify myself for being here and being a contender every week," Busch said. "But there's other guys out there that have had legitimate shots at winning, too.




"Kurt had a shot at Texas to win the race. Denny Hamlin had a shot at Phoenix to win the race. It changes every week. There's probably 10 guys that will tell you, 'I could have won that race.' Ten guys can't win the race, so it's always pretty tough."