You either love the Busch brothers or you hate them. There's no in-between.
Since Kurt came into the Sprint Cup series in 2000 and younger bro Kyle followed him in 2004, few other drivers have been as polarizing and both loved and hated by NASCAR fandom as the Las Vegas natives.
Let's face it, both brothers had significantly off years in 2012 for a number of different reasons. And ironically, it was the first time in their respective careers that the Busch family did not have a representative in the Chase.
But 2013 will be a far different season for KuBu and KyBu, unofficial nicknames that fans or haters like to refer to them as.
Given the humble pie both brothers had to eat in 2012—Kyle finished 13th and Kurt 25th—we expect them to have seasons in 2013 that will be 180 degrees different, and that means for the better.
Let's take a look at why both Busch boys will not only once again make the Chase in 2013, but also how they potentially could be significant factors in how the season and championship play out.
Kurt and Kyle Busch battling each other in a race last season.
Say what you want about the Busch brothers, but among the character traits they share is resiliency, the ability to bounce back from bad luck or misfortune.
After the horrible season he had in 2012, missing the Chase and winning only one race (spring Sprint Cup race at Richmond) across all three series—remember, he's won 105 combined races in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks in his career—look for Kyle to come back with a vengeance in 2013.
As for Kurt, 2012 did not go the way he likely planned it. He spent the majority of the season with Phoenix Racing and did decently before asking to be let out of his contract so he could join Furniture Row Racing late in the season, a wish he was granted. In an ironic twist, the driver he replaced at FRR replaced Busch at Phoenix Racing.
In addition to falling back on his old ways, leading to a one-race suspension during the 2012 season, the elder Busch brother had a few highlight moments but nowhere near what he has been accustomed to over the years.
That's one of the key reasons both drivers will have big comebacks in 2013.
Kurt went from a secure gig at Penske Racing to being let go for an expletive-filled tirade at ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch in the 2011 season finale at Homestead. He surfaced at Phoenix Racing for the 2012 season, a move that allowed Busch to make the first step towards returning to NASCAR's good graces.
Now, with Furniture Row Racing, which he joined near the end of last season, Busch has found a more secure home. Even though rumors persist that Busch may use FRR as a stepping stone back to the big time (rumors are he may be headed to Richard Childress Racing in 2014), we may see the exact opposite.
The elder Busch seems to feel much more at home now with FRR than he did at Phoenix Racing. And, with FRR committing more resources to its program by having the first Chase for the Sprint Cup winner from 2004, we wouldn't be surprised if Busch stays at FRR for several years. The chemistry is there, the performance is improving and Busch will have even better race cars than he did at Phoenix Racing.
As for Kyle, it appears he's not going anywhere any time soon. He is rumored to have already signed a lengthy contract renewal with Joe Gibbs Racing. An announcement is expected during next week's Sprint NASCAR Media Tour.
If the rumor is true, the younger Busch brother won't have to worry about contract status in 2013, which was to be the final year on his existing deal with JGR.
Now, all KyBusch has to worry about is doing his best on the track and, as the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis used to say, "Just win, baby!"
Has it really been over eight years since Kurt won the first Chase championship?
Kurt Busch has made the Chase six times in its nine-year existence, including winning the first Chase title in 2004.
Kyle, meanwhile, has made the Chase in five of the eight seasons he's raced full-time on the Cup circuit.
But both brothers never missed out on the Chase in the same season until 2012, when they both failed to make NASCAR's playoffs. And as odd as it may sound, something appeared to be missing in the 2012 with neither of the Busch brothers in it, let alone be a factor.
With stout JGR and Toyota power, we're sure Kyle will make the Chase in 2013. Kurt, on the other hand, is a question mark. Furniture Row has Earnhardt Childress motors under the hood. An argument can be made that EC motors have less power than their counterparts from Hendrick Motorsports. One need look only at the standings and overall performance between EC and HMS motors over the last few seasons to see a definite contrast.
Still, Furniture Row has a former champion in its stable and is committing more resources in 2013 to not only be more competitive, but to hopefully make the Chase for the first time in its existence. If anyone can accomplish that feat, it is Kurt Busch.
Kyle pile driving Ron Hornaday Jr. into the wall at Texas in Nov. 2011.
It's safe to say that the two Busch brothers are not the most liked drivers in the sport. More often than not, they're met with equal—if not more—boos than cheers whenever they're introduced pre-race.
Much of the alienation from fans comes from the way the two siblings have handled themselves and their overall demeanor.
Kurt has had several run-ins with members of the media, the most notable being the confrontation he had with Dr. Jerry Punch in the 2011 season finale at Homestead, which led to Kurt's ultimate parting of ways with Penske Racing. He's also had off-track incidents with a Phoenix sheriff's deputy and also cursed out crew members numerous times over a team radio.
Kyle, meanwhile, rammed Ron Hornaday Jr. head-on into a wall during a Trucks race in 2011, leading to a one-race suspension on the Cup side. He's also been caught doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone on a country road, and seems to enjoy playing the role of NASCAR's villain.
But 2013 could be a very pivotal year for both. If the rumors are true about a new long-term contract extension that will be announced next week, you have to wonder if team owner Joe Gibbs attached certain behavior conditions to the pact.
And if Kurt is to take the next step back to the top level of the sport, he'll have to embrace his role at Furniture Row and once again show just how much talent he has, rather than reverting back to his bad boy reputation. Remember, it wasn't too many years ago that Kurt was ranked among the top 10 most hated athletes in sports.
We suspect that 2013 will be a new leaf turned over by both brothers, and rather than talking about them in negative terms, we may very well be left to talk about them in awe at the potential accomplishments they may achieve.
Doesn't it seem like NASCAR president Mike Helton is saying, 'Now Kurt, we're watching you.'
Believe it or not, the Busch brothers in the Chase is good for NASCAR.
With neither brother in the 2012 10-race playoff, there wasn't quite the drama or intrigue there is when a Busch is among the 12 Chase contestants.
Sure, they still raced during last season's 10 Chase races, but not being part of the 12-driver party made it seem like something was missing.
And something indeed was missing with both Busch brothers left to essentially be Chase spectators.
When one or both of the brothers is in the Chase, they bring about excitement and consternation, positive and negative, fan ardor and angst and make the overall experience that much more interesting and intriguing.
As much as many Busch brother haters would rather see both disappear from the circuit, the truth is they bring more to the sport by being in it than if they weren't in it. Sure, they may be targets of disdain in the eyes of many, but let's not forget that they also have their own sizable fanbases that love to root for them, too.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski