Can Early Success Lead to Chase Success for Kyle Busch?

Curtis Harvey April 20, 2013 Comments Off on Can Early Success Lead to Chase Success for Kyle Busch?

The Busch brothers are two of the most alienating figures in the sport, but no one can deny their talent. Older brother Kurt has had a strange past few seasons in his attempt to return to prominence, while Kyle has quickly rebounded from a disappointing 2012 campaign. Kurt has had some stumbles in his quest recently, but he has the one thing that younger brother doesn’t: A Sprint Cup Championship.

When Kyle came into the top series people expected him to quickly win a championship, he showed tremendous talent and, initially, drove for Hendrick Motorsports. His 2005 rookie season resulted in 2 wins in Terry Labonte’s old #5 car and rookie of the year honors. In his sophomore season Busch backed up his rookie performance, by winning another race and qualifying for the Chase as the 4th seed, poor performances would leave him 10th in the final standings.

2007 was another Chase appearance for the younger Busch, qualifying as the 9 seed and finishing 5th. This was the second consecutive season in which the young driver was able to make the chase, but could not win any of the events in it and challenge for the title. This would be the final season for Kyle at HMS, leaving at the end of the season to make his mark in the #18 Joe Gibbs Toyota.

In his first season at Joe Gibbs, Busch exploded for 8 regular season wins, easily giving him the top seed going into the Chase, and a nice 30 point cushion. Having completely dominated the first 26 races it seemed a foregone conclusion that Busch would get his, and Toyota’s, first title. However, the Chase had other plans. Busch had 2 DNF’s and was unable to win a single Chase race and finished 10th in points. He won 4 more races in 2009 when he failed to make the Chase, 2010 saw 3 more wins and a winless Chase appearance, landing him 8th in points.

This trend of poor Chase appearances after a successful season continued in 2011, in which Kyle won 4 races in the regular season before winning none in the Chase and finishing 12th (Missed one race for suspension).

The point I’m getting to is that while Kyle Busch has many victories across all series, 111 total, 26 in Sprint Cup, he has none in the Chase races, and his highest points finish is 5th in has last season with HMS.

Out of the gate this season Joe Gibbs Racing and specifically Kyle Busch have seemed to have a jump start on the new car over every other team besides HMS. With his 2 early wins Kyle Busch is showing signs of his 8 win season. But can this success carry into the Chase? Last season, when Busch failed to make the Chase, was his most successful showing during the Chase races. Was it because there was no pressure on him to perform? Does being in the Chase weigh too heavily on him for him to win the Cup? He does have a Nationwide Championship, but that’s a full season points system.

With the emergence of Brad Keselowski, winning a title in his 3rd full season, pressure is even more on Busch’s shoulders to win a title in the sport’s highest series. Wins are great, but Championships are what matter.