Kurt or Kyle: Which Busch Brother Is Under the Most Pressure at Bristol?
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In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, every driver is always under intense pressure.
But coming into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, perhaps no two drivers were under more pressure than Kurt and Kyle Busch.
The sibling pair had a nightmarish ending to the 2011 NASCAR season.
Elder brother Kurt put the final nail in the coffin of his tenure at Penske Racing when his profanity-laced tirade against ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, went viral.
Younger brother Kyle was suspended for a race towards the end of the season and lost primary sponsor M&M's for two races after an on-track incident in the Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Both drivers were very fortunate in the offseason. Kurt found a home with Phoenix Racing, a single-car operation which receives technical support from garage-area juggernaut Hendrick Motorsports, while Kyle retained his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing as well as the M&M's sponsorship.
But the 2012 season has not gone as planned for the boys who grew up just outside of Las Vegas.
Kurt has shown to be competitive in his new ride. He looked to have a car capable of running up front during Speedweeks at Daytona, and he had a Top 10 car at his home track just a week ago.
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But the older brother has had his share of issues. The car that looked like a contender to win the Daytona 500—crashed on Lap 2. The car that looked like a Top 10 car at Las Vegas—crashed after two flat tires, a poorly-timed pit stop and a problem with the air hose.
Kurt's best finish so far in 2012 is a 15th at Phoenix, and he currently sits 29th in the standings.
As for Kyle, the man many thought was back to his old form after a thrilling victory in the Budweiser Shootout has been one of the season's biggest disappointments, so far.
Like most drivers, the younger Busch had a shot at winning the Daytona 500 but was taken out in a late accident and finished 17th. He had a Top 10 finish at Phoenix only after several cars fell out of contention late due to engine and fuel problems.
As for Las Vegas, that was simply an embarrassment for a driver many expect to contend for a championship.
Now, it's on to Bristol, a track at which these two brothers have a combined 10 wins. Kurt and Kyle have five victories apiece at the half-mile bullring.
But of these two drivers, which is under the most pressure of having a solid run?
When we look at the stats of these two drivers, so far, in 2012, it's really no contest. Kyle has dominated Kurt at every race this season: 17th to 39th at Daytona, 6th to 15th at Phoenix, and 23rd to 35th at Las Vegas.
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Kyle sits 12th in the standings, 17 spots ahead of his older brother.
The stats suggest that all of the pressure is on Kurt. But while numbers never lie, they also never tell the full truth.
The second part of this story is expectation. What are the expectations of Kurt compared to the expectations of Kyle?
Driving for a low-budget team, Kurt is not racing for a championship this year. While his second career title sure would be a nice surprise, 2012 marks an audition year for Kurt more than anything.
It's not an audition of his talent. Everybody knows that Kurt can drive a racecar, and he can drive it well.
The 2012 season is a test of his character. How can he handle the adversity faced by a low-budget team? How can he handle having a bad day driving for a team with limited resources?
And more than anything, can he overcome all of the obstacles and make this low-budget team competitive?
Though the stats may not reflect it, Kurt has done a nice job, thus far, at making his team competitive, and he has kept his emotions in check.
For Kyle, the expectations are much larger. He must win races. He must make the Chase. He must win the championship. Anything less is a disappointment.
Which Busch brother is under more pressure going into Bristol?
Thus far, he has not done well at meeting those expectations.
The deciding factor in answering which driver needs a better run at Bristol rests solely on finishing this statement:
It will be a successful day for (insert Busch brother here) if he can (blank) at Bristol.
For Kurt, it will be a successful day if he can keep his head cool, his nose clean and manage a solid Top 15 or even a Top 10 finish.
For Kyle, it will be a successful day if he wins. No more, no less.
With that being said, which Busch brother must perform better at Bristol this weekend?
You be the judge.
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