Season Review: Kyle Busch
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on December 3, 2013 | 8:21 A.M. EST
Kyle Busch scored four NASCAR Sprint Cup victories in 2013, pushing his career total to 28. (Photo: Getty Images)
This season could be viewed as a breakthrough for Kyle Busch. Or it could be seen as another opportunity lost.
How the year will be judged, though, depends on what Busch does in upcoming seasons.
He finished a career-high fourth in the points, but it is what Busch did in the final weeks of the Chase that could mean the most.
For years Busch has been viewed as among the sport’s most talented drivers. Yet, he had finished in the top five once in eight seasons entering 2013. He often was known as the driver who could win races but not come close to winning the championship.
That’s why this year could be significant for the 28-year-old. He changed.
“This was the first year that I really gave total focus through the whole (Chase) and just said, ‘It doesn’t matter if we get eliminated, we’re going to continue to battle hard all the way through,’ ‘’ Busch said a day after the season ended.
“In the past, if I wasn’t going to win the championship, I didn’t care where I finished in the Chase.’’
Busch showed promise early in the Chase, finishing second at Chicagoland Speedway and New Hampshire before placing fifth at Dover. That put him third in the points at the time.
Then came his nemesis. Kanas Speedway has tortured and tormented Busch. He wrecked in practice and had to go to a backup car. He was involved in two incidents during the race and finished 34th, all but ending his titles hopes.
It wasn’t just that race where Kansas Speedway has challenged Busch. He was involved in two incidents there in April. In the last three races at that track, he’s been involved in six accidents or spins.
With Kansas Speedway back in the Chase next year, if Busch is to truly reach his potential, then he must overcome the obstacles he faces there. He also needs to win during the Chase - something he hasn’t done since 2005, his rookie season.
Busch responded to his Kansas woes in the Chase by scoring back-to-back fifth-place finishes at Charlotte and Talladega Superspeedway. Finishes outside the top 10 at Martinsville Speedway (15th) and Texas (13th) the following two weeks ended any meager title hopes remaining, but he finished the season with seventh-place results at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It will take more to win a championship, but this was a step for Busch.
What led to his change in attitude during the Chase? Simple.
“Too many people were telling me that I suck and I fold up when it comes to the end of the season, which is true, I do,’’ Busch said. “When the championship is on the line and you start falling away from that, you give up. You’re like, ‘Whatever another year wasted, go on to the next year.’ This year we changed that and we fought all the way through. I wish we would have ended up better, but we ended up fourth.’’
One of the goals for next season will likely be reducing the number of poor finishes. He placed 30th or worse seven times. Engine failures caused two of those results.
That he could score six finishes of 30th or worse in the regular season and still make the Chase shows what he could do when he didn’t have issues during a race. He won four times, the second most victories he’s had in a Sprint Cup season. Busch scored wins at Auto Club Speedway, Texas, Watkins Glen International and Atlanta to increase his career total to 28. He also finished second four times. Thus, Busch placed first or second nearly one-quarter of the season.
Two of his victories were dramatic. He took the lead on the last lap at Auto Club Speedway as Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin battled for the top spot. Busch shot by on the outside. At Watkins Glen, Busch held off Brad Keselowski in a last-lap duel.
Outside of Cup, Busch won five Camping World Truck Series races in 11 starts and Kyle Busch Motorsports claimed the owner’s title. In the Nationwide Series, Busch won 12 races in 26 starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. After the season, Busch announced that Kyle Busch Motorsports would not field a Nationwide team in 2014. The organization will continue to field entries in the Truck series.
The key question for Busch in Cup is if the lessons learned in 2013 will lead to greater results in 2014.
Motor Racing Network continues our countdown to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards in Las Vegas with a look at the fourth-place finisher, Kevin Harvick, on Wednesday, Dec. 4. MRN will broadcast the Awards on Dec. 6 starting at 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.