CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Busch holds a 3-0 advantage over Kasey Kahne this season and understands Kahne may be planning some retaliation.
In fact, he jokingly told Kahne he was ready for revenge.
"I just told Kasey, don't make it hurt too bad," Busch said.
Nobody knows when — or if — Kahne will issue a payback for the three incidents he's had this season that all involved Busch. The latest came last Saturday night at Darlington Raceway when Kahne spun as the two were racing for the lead with 33 laps remaining.
"Three times this year me and Kyle had contact and I had a chance — capable, winning cars — it's disappointing on the points side and not winning some of these races," Kahne said after the race. "Whether he hit me or just blew the air off, whatever it was, he blew his entry. I'm not sure what he was thinking on that."
Busch shrugged the Darlington incident off as hard racing in the closing laps of the race. But he admitted Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that incidents with Kahne in the season-opening Daytona 500 and two weeks ago at Talladega were mistakes on his part.
The Daytona accident triggered a nine-car pileup, while the Talladega wreck collected 16 cars.
"The first two instances were a mistake, just misjudgment," Busch said. "Last week was just hard racing. Whether or not we touched, I think that's insignificant because I'm not racing to wreck Kasey Kahne, but Kasey Kahne did crash because of me so it's a part of hard racing at the end of the race and I hate that it keeps being the same guy."
Busch confirmed he's reached out to Kahne since Darlington, and it led to him joking about retaliation. But he's not convinced it's coming from Kahne, who isn't known to be hot-tempered or vengeful on the race track.
"I don't think Kasey is that kind of guy," he said. "But if it happens, I'll understand."
If it does happen, Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race is the perfect stage for a showdown.
The race is an exhibition only with a cool $1 million to the winner — track owner Bruton Smith has offered an additional $1 million bonus if the winning driver sweeps all five segments. With no points or championship implications on the line, Kahne retaliating would not harm Busch's bid to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, didn't understand why the All-Star Race would be the best place for payback.
"What's wrong with the other races?" Earnhardt asked.
Jimmie Johnson has spoken to both drivers, and described both their moods as "frustrated" and said he could relate based on past incidents he's had.
"Kasey's come out on the losing end three times," Johnson said of his teammate. "It's not like Kyle has an issue; it's just stuff. I had it with Kurt (Busch) and also Sterling Marlin in 2003-04. It's no fun when it happens and you have a magnet for (another) car."
Once a driver starts to have repeated incidents with the same driver, it can be difficult to stop, Johnson said.
"The way I've been able to break the cycle is you just have to consciously get away," he said. "If it goes to the third time, it's OK, if I see you coming I'm getting the hell out of the way. You have to try to make it stop that way."
Busch is frustrated beyond the incidents with Kahne. He led 265 of 367 laps at Darlington but a tire problem caused him to fade at the end and finish sixth. It was the 11th time Busch has led at least 200 laps in a Sprint Cup race, yet he's only won four of those.
"If you lead 260 whatever laps and don't win, it's a lost race, it's gone, it means nothing. It is what it is," Busch said. "On the flipside, if you can only lead one lap and lead the last one and win any race, I'd have that happen every single week. It's all about taking home the trophy and the checkered flag, it's not necessarily about how many laps you lead.
"When you lead all those laps it shows that you're good, you're team's good, you're car's good and everything else, but it just goes to show you how much bad luck (Busch) has."