Season Review: Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch finished the season with four wins, 14 top fives and 18 top 10s. (Photo: Getty Images)


The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was full of controversy for Kyle Busch, who made headlines mostly for the wrong reasons throughout the year.

Busch started the season strong by earning six top-10 finishes in the first nine races, including two wins at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Speedway.

The newly married, 26-year-old driver appeared calmer and more focused, which was a change from his infamous reputation as “Rowdy.” Yet, fans still loved to hate him.

“I don't know about the fans,” Busch said. “I don't know if it's that easy to change opinions sometimes. It's definitely fun to have a good attitude about things and have good results.”

When the series headed to Darlington Raceway for the Showtime Southern 500, fans were reminded why they continue to boo the driver of the No. 18 Toyota each week.

As the field of cars raced down the front stretch with four laps remaining, Busch managed to wreck two Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets. Busch bumped Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 into Clint Bowyer’s No. 33, causing Bowyer to crash into the inside wall. Busch proceeded to spin Harvick’s car around intentionally, resulting in a feud between the two drivers after the race.

“Rowdy” had officially returned.

Two weeks later, Busch lost his driver’s license when he was caught for speeding around Troutman, NC in a 2012 Lexus LFA sports car. He was clocked traveling 128 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Little over a week later in Kansas, owner Richard Childress put Busch in a headlock and punched him as a result of Busch bumping Joey Coulter after the truck series race. The 66-year-old had enough of Busch wrecking his equipment.

However, Busch continued to have success on the track in the Sprint Cup Series. He finished in the top five seven times in the following 10 races after Kansas, earning wins at Kentucky Speedway and Michigan International Speedway. His only bad finish in that stretch was 36th place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“With any bad day it seems to hurt you so much,” Busch said. “You really have to concentrate on battling back, getting yourself back up in the points. For us it's going to come to being about minimizing those bad days and keeping our heads on straight.

“It's definitely going to be a lot edgier through the Chase. Certainly there's going to be times throughout the Chase where you've got to play it right and you have to play it smart, be smooth and cool about it.”

Busch entered the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the points leader, but struggled to minimize his bad days and keep his head on straight throughout the 10-race playoffs.

He only had four finishes inside the top 20 and was parked for one of the races after an incident where “Rowdy” retaliated.

Busch was sidelined at Texas Motor Speedway, after blatantly spinning Ron Hornaday Jr. head-on into the wall during a caution in the truck series race earlier that weekend.

As a result, M&M’s pulled their sponsorship of the No. 18 Toyota for the final two races of the season. With Interstate Batteries as the sponsor on the hood, Busch went on to finish 36th at Phoenix International Raceway and 23rd at Homestead-Miami.

The final standings had Busch placed in a disappointing 12th, last out of the Chase contenders.

On the positive side, Busch tied with Harvick for second in total wins on the season with four victories each. Only the series champion Tony Stewart had more wins with five, which all came in the Chase.

He led the Series in Driver Rating with a 104.1 and was also able to reach the milestone of 100 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions combined.

After all of the controversies this season, Busch managed to keep his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing and M&M’s will return as his sponsor, in hopes that he will change his ways and come back stronger in 2012.

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