Bold Predictions for NASCAR Star Kyle Busch in 2014

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IDecember 30, 2013

Bold Predictions for NASCAR Star Kyle Busch in 2014

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    Kyle Busch was a four-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series last season.
    Kyle Busch was a four-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series last season.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    There are some drivers in the Sprint Cup Series who are so consistent that we know exactly what we are going to get from them year in and year out.

    Jimmie Johnson is always good for at least four wins and a top-three finish in the championship standings. On the other end of the spectrum, Joe Nemechek and Michael McDowell are known start-and-park drivers who will post more DNFs than top-35 finishes.

    Then there are some drivers from whom we never quite know what to expect.

    Kyle Busch is one of those competitors.

    In his last six seasons, Busch has posted win totals that range from one to eight victories in a year. His top-10 totals have been as low as 13 and as high as 22.

    Busch finished a career-best fourth in the standings in 2013, but he has also missed the Chase twice in the past five years.

    With Busch's up-and-down tendencies, making predictions for what his season will look like can be nearly impossible. But I am going to give it a shot.

    In the slides ahead, I will make a few bold predictions for what the 2014 Sprint Cup season has in store for the younger Busch brother.

Busch Will Score His First Career Daytona 500 Victory

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    Engine trouble ended Kyle Busch's Daytona 500 in 2013.
    Engine trouble ended Kyle Busch's Daytona 500 in 2013.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Daytona, more specifically the season-opening Daytona 500, has been unkind to Kyle Busch throughout his nine-year career.

    Busch has only finished inside the top 10 in two of his nine appearances in the Great American Race. His fourth-place finish in 2008 is his only top five.

    Daytona 500 troubles aside, Busch has had some success at the two-and-a-half superspeedway. He is a former winner of the July night race and has scored an additional three top-five finishes in that event, including two runner-up results.

    Look for 2014 to be Busch's Daytona 500 triumph. He has started the race inside the top 10 six different times. Based on the fact that the starting grid for that event is set by qualifying races, Busch has proven that he is more than capable of running near the front of the pack.

    Following a blown engine in last season's opening race, Busch will be looking for redemption. 

    The last two Daytona 500 winners are drivers who had won this race in the past. Busch will put an end to that short-running trend by earning his first victory in the sport's most prestigious event.

Expect an 8-Win Season

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    Kyle Busch won four races in 2013.
    Kyle Busch won four races in 2013.Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Eight wins in one season are not out of the realm of possibility for Kyle Busch. He has done it in the past, landing on that number in 2008.

    That season, Busch posted his octet of victories within the first 22 races of the season. He then went 0-for-14 over the remainder of the season.

    Over the course of his career, Busch averages slightly more than three wins per season. In four of the last six years, Busch has been victorious at least four times, so posting a large collection of victories would be nothing new for the 29-year-old driver.

    Not only does Busch have the talent to accumulate at least eight wins in one season, but his team has also proved to be capable of accomplishing the feat.

    In 2013, Joe Gibbs Racing cars scored a combined 12 wins, led by seven from Busch's teammate Matt Kenseth.

    Expect Busch to be the runaway leader in victories on his team in 2014. After winning the season-opening Daytona 500, look for him to pick up seven additional wins over the course of the season.


3 Track Records Will Fall Courtesy of Busch

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    Kyle Busch set two track records in 2013.
    Kyle Busch set two track records in 2013.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Two of Kyle Busch's three pole wins in 2013—Bristol and Texas—resulted in new track records. 

    Overall, 2013 was a record-breaking year for speeds on NASCAR tracks. Nineteen of the 36 races saw new track records set during qualifying.

    Of the 23 tracks that host a Sprint Cup event, 16 had their track records set at least one time in 2013, and three of them were set both times the series made a visit.

    Aside from his three pole wins in 2013, Busch posted 13 other top-five starts. He had an average starting position of 9.1, which was a career best and second among full-time competitors.

    It was the first time in his career when he won at least three poles in a single season.

    Much of the credit for the high speeds belongs to the new Gen-6 cars that NASCAR rolled out prior to the 2013 season.

    The Gen-6 car features a much better aerodynamic design and is 160 pounds lighter than the machines raced in previous years.

    During the offseason, NASCAR held tests trying to find ways to improve the car and make it even better in its second season of competition. Those tests have since concluded and NASCAR seems to be pleased with the results, according to their official website.

    Expect the cars to be even faster and have better handling in 2014 than in 2013. Combine higher speeds with Busch's qualifying prowess, and he will personally set at least three new track records in the upcoming season.


Busch Will Win at Least 3 Chase Races

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    Busch has struggled immensely in his Chase career.
    Busch has struggled immensely in his Chase career.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    There is not a lot in Kyle Busch's history that would make anyone believe he can win a Chase race, let alone win multiple times.

    In 89 career Chase starts, Busch has just one postseason victory. That lone trip to Victory Lane came way back in 2005, his rookie season, a year that Busch was not even a Chase participant.

    While his playoff win percentage is inexplicably low, Busch made great strides this past season.

    Busch opened the 2013 postseason with back-to-back runner-up finishes, both times losing out to his teammate Matt Kenseth. He went on to post three additional top-five finishes over the final eight events.

    This came on the heels of a very strong postseason performance the year before. In 2012, Busch scored seven top fives, including in each of the final four events of the year. Busch, however, was not a Chase participant two seasons ago.

    No one has ever questioned Busch's ability behind the wheel of a race car. While he continuously shows his brilliance during the regular season, the last 10 races of the year have haunted him year after year.

    His string of not winning playoff races cannot go on forever. Sooner or later, regular-season Kyle Busch needs to show up in the postseason.

    2014 will be the year. Expect Busch to follow up a strong regular season with an equally impressive postseason.


Busch Will Win the Sprint Cup Championship

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    Kyle Busch's only NASCAR championship was the 2009 Nationwide Series title.
    Kyle Busch's only NASCAR championship was the 2009 Nationwide Series title.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Year after year, Kyle Busch is expected to contend for the series championship, and year after year, he never comes close to realizing that expectation.

    In his nine-year full-time career, Busch has qualified for the Chase six times. Prior to his fourth-place finish in the 2013 standings, he had finished better than eighth just one time. 

    In fact, the best Chase performance of Busch's career came in 2012, a postseason where he scored seven finishes of fifth or better, but it was a year that he was not even a Chase participant.

    2013 was a somewhat quiet but very successful season for Busch. He was a four-time race winner. His 22 top 10s were a career best while his 16 top-five finishes were one shy of matching his personal best for a season.

    He entered the Chase as the second seed (tied with Jimmie Johnson), and for the first time in his career, he never fell below fifth place in the standings during the postseason.

    After a strong regular season, and the best postseason showing of his young career, Busch finally has the look of a legitimate championship contender in 2014.

    Maybe I am biased by making this prediction. After all, I have predicted Busch to win the series title each of the last four seasons, and he has yet to offer me a glimmer of hope of being right. Sooner or later, he will reward my consistent faith in his abilities.

    2014 will finally be the season.