Kyle Busch didn't finish the 2012 season like he would have wanted. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver didn’t make it into the Chase, and he only managed to win one race.
2013 has been different for Busch, though. So far this season, he has been one of the stronger drivers. And while he's yet to find himself in Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series, he has won two races in Nationwide.
Kyle Busch has already begun to have a turnaround from last season, and there are several contributing factors that have helped the driver with his fresh start in 2013.
Busch was a big fan of the Gen-6 car during the offseason, and he's clearly emerged as one driver who has a handle on the new model. That is, when he can avoid dealing with engine problems.
The addition of Matt Kenseth could also be a major factor in why Busch is seeing early success this season. He brings tougher competition into Joe Gibbs Racing. And with Kenseth already winning a race, Kyle will need to play catch up before he gets overshadowed by the new Gibbs driver.
Then there's the contract extension Busch signed during the offseason, which clearly showed him just how much he’s worth to the Gibbs Racing organization. It also put him back on the Gibbs racing team in the Nationwide Series, which has had an immediate impact on how well Kyle performs in the Series.
The Benefits of The Gen-6
The Gen-6 has been a big part of the 2013 season and will likely stay a big part of the discussion as the season moves on. Busch was optimistic about the new car during the offseason, saying (h/t NASCAR.com), "This new car, I love it. I think it looks awesome. It looks like a street car, which is great."
He won one of the Budweiser Duels, ran well during the Daytona 500 until his engine blew and, over the last two weeks, has finished fourth at Vegas and second at Bristol.
The Gen-6 had made it a little easier for Busch to come back this season and start to have a major turnaround from last year. Not only has the new model of car reset the advantages teams had technology-wise with the Car of Tomorrow, but Busch's like of the new car has clearly helped him.
His record-breaking Bristol qualifying results are proof enough of how he has adjusted to the new car and also make him the first driver to break a speed record during qualifying this season.
Lighting a Fire
One main purpose of Gibbs signing Matt Kenseth was the need to fill the No. 20 car with a driver who was experienced enough to win races. Whether you're a fan of Joey Logano or think he's overrated, Logano simply wasn't getting the job done.
Gibbs bringing Kenseth over was a smart move, and it has already helped the organization win a race so far this season.
It may have helped Kyle Busch as well.
Kenseth brings over a lot of experience and could share that experience throughout the Joe Gibbs organization.
He also adds another level of competition to the Gibbs race team.
Busch's only competition within the Gibbs organization was Denny Hamlin, but with Kenseth coming in and already having a more successful season than his fellow Gibbs drivers, he might be the fire needed to get Kyle moving.
If Kenseth can be successful after making the move, there's no reason Busch can't be successful as well. With strong in-organization competition pushing him to be even better, Kenseth could be a big part in why Busch is having a turnaround season early this year.
Finding Out His Worth
Before NASCAR entered the 2013 season, Busch signed a multi-year deal to stay with Joe Gibbs Racing. While the terms of the deal were never released, it was big enough for Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs to jokingly say (h/t ESPN), "The bad news is we work for him and we're broke."
Busch had received offers from other teams, but he settled on signing the extension with Gibbs. And while money may not have been a huge factor in his decision, Busch definitely saw how much he was worth to the organization, as Gibbs was clearly set on getting the driver to extend his contract.
Signing a new contract and seeing how much he was worth to the Gibbs Racing team has put Busch on track for a turnaround season after a struggle in 2012.
Kyle’s turnaround early this season is just the beginning, and he will hopefully continue pushing himself as the year moves on.
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