Kyle Busch's Inconsistency Puts Chase Berth in Jeopardy

Kyle LavigneAnalyst IJune 15, 2009

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 12: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 12, 2009 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

No one has won more races over the past two seasons (combining all of NASCAR’s top three divisions) than Kyle Busch. Simply put, he is the fastest driver going on the circuit … and the most controversial (he apparently destroyed a guitar in victory lane at Nashville).

This season, he has dominated the Camping Truck and Nationwide Series. With two wins in the truck, he has himself seventh in those standings (even after missing two races). In the Nationwide Series, he leads the standings and could have won every race this season, if not for poor luck and mistakes.

One would think this dominance would extend to the Sprint Cup Series. And when you look at his wins and laps led, it has. He is tied for the series’ lead in wins with three (the other being Mark Martin) and has led more laps than any other driver.

Yet, he sits but ninth in points, 53 ahead of 13th place David Reutimann. How did this happen? How can it be that the most dominant driver in NASCAR is but 53 points to the good at this point in the season?

Well, to counter those three wins, Mr. Busch has collect six finishes of 24th or worse. It has been feast or famine for “The Wild Thing” (oddly resembling the performance of Charlie Sheen’s character in Major League); he either wins, or struggles…mightily.

For that reason, I am wary in saying that he’ll even qualify for this year’s Chase, let alone contend for a title. Winning and leading laps grabs headlines, but consistency wins championships, even with “The Chase” format.

Look at Tony Stewart’s 2006 campaign as an example of how “feast or famine” will suit you through the year. He garnered a couple of wins through the first 26 races, and led a bunch of laps, but numerous finishes below 30th saw him on the outside looking in after Richmond (the same could have almost been said of Kasey Kahne that same year).

Now, I’m not saying it is a definite that Busch will miss The Chase. He is in the top 12 for the time being and could certainly turn things around during the rest of the summer.

But, if this trend keeps up, I’m going to go out and say he, like Stewart in ’06, will be on the outside looking in after Richmond. A driver simply can’t have two finishes in the mid 20’s for every win; too many others will get that consistency (and a small hot streak even) and can pass a driver with those stats.

As I said, Busch can certainly turn things around in the coming months. After all, it was during this stretch that he got about half of his wins 2008. He knows he can go well at the coming tracks, and the team knows the same thing.

Plus, Joe Gibbs Racing is among the top teams; the equipment and people are in place for a title run, so long as they qualify for The Chase, which can be easier said than done (just ask Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.).

When the season started, it appeared to be a certainty that Busch would both make The Chase and be a true title contender. Surely, his 2008 collapse would make him and the team hungry enough to mount a charge.

However, that certainty is waning with every race that Busch runs right now. For, with every passing race, he either wins, or is way off the pace.