Kyle Busch had a disappointing season in 2012 but look for him to return with a vengeance this year. The Las Vegas native managed only one victory last season to go along with his 13 top-five and 20 top-10 results. He also captured two poles over the course of the campaign.
While those numbers might sound good for many other drivers, they are not up to the standards set in previous season by the younger of the Busch brothers. This was the first year since 2007 that Busch had not won multiple races. He also failed to make the Chase playoff for only the second time in the last seven seasons.
Going into the 2012 season, Busch had a number of distractions to contend with that may have taken some of his focus off of his Sprint Cup efforts. Kyle Busch Motorsports had just recently announced the formation of a full time Nationwide Series team that would employ both he and brother Kurt as drivers.
And, Busch had just completed a tumultuous offseason in which Joe Gibbs Racing team sponsor M&M's had been rumored to have considered leaving after their driver had been involved in a controversial incident during a Camping World Truck Series race at the end of the 2011 season. That situation in Texas had resulted in a one race "benching" by NASCAR and another black mark on a career filled with embarrassing moments.
This offseason has been much less active for Busch which will no doubt allow him to come into this year with fewer distractions.
Other issues that hampered Busch's 2012 season were engine reliability and fuel mileage. After a race last season in Dover, Busch made some pointed comments regarding his car's fuel mileage and how his inability to stretch a run as far as other drivers had cost him "another one." Almost certainly, engineers at both Toyota Racing Development and Joe Gibbs Racing have dedicated much of their efforts since the end of last season to improving both of those problems.
The addition of veteran Matt Kenseth to the JGR driver lineup could also add a calming influence within that organization which should serve to benefit both Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin. All of the above mentioned factors will return this talented driver back to his rightful place as a threat to win races and a championship.
Kyle Busch will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. But, he is not my pick to win the big trophy.
Throughout the month of January, I will be running a series on the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the 2013 NASCAR season. The first 11 articles will be placed in no particular order, but the final piece written in the series will be on the driver I am selecting as the favorite to win this year's championship. Half of these pieces will be placed on my own RacingWithRich.com site and half will be placed on BleacherReport.com. Please consider following along on both websites and adding your own thoughts in the "comments" sections below each piece.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Please visit his RacingWithRich.com website to read about the Chase for the Sprint Cup chances of Kasey Kahne.