Just a few short weeks ago I publicly stated that I did not believe that Kyle Busch and his No 18 M&M's Toyota would make the 2009 Chase for the Championship.
I was told by Busch fans that I had anther thing coming if I thought he wouldn't make it. I was also told by some Busch and non-Busch fans that he would be a shoe-in for a Chase spot.
Everyone all but laughed in my face because I believed that I was not looking at the same Joe Gibbs Racing team that had won eight races in the Sprint Cup Series last year. Nor was I looking at the same driver that won 21 races over NASCAR's top three Series.
Something has been missing and lost from Busch and his team.
They all still have the desire and fire to win—they hold three Sprint Cup Series victories to date—but what they also have are a lot of poor finishes. Busch hasn't had a top 10 finish since the rain shortened New Hampshire race last month.
He hasn't had a top five finish since his last win which was at Richmond in May.
As Busch continued to backslide through the points, I continued to stick to my assertion. Kyle Busch will not make the 2009 Chase for the Championship.
Not only is this team not showing up to the track each week and dominating nor are they showing up each week and being a real factor for the win, but they have lost something that every driver so desperately needs to not only make the Chase, but to win a Championship—consistency.
Busch and company are having the complete opposite year that they had in 2008 when they were winning, leading laps, and finishing in the top five and top 10 every week. This year they are struggling and posting poor finishes at tracks they were so hard to beat at last year.
Don't believe me?
At the tracks Busch won at in 2008 that the Sprint Cup Series has visited in 2009, which would be: Atlanta, Talladega, Darlington, Dover, Sonoma, Daytona and Chicagoland, Busch finished worst than 20th in five of those seven races.
Coming into Indianapolis he sat 10th in points and upon his arrival at the famed Speedway, Busch told the media that he was going to be a different man.
Saying he wanted to be the leader of his team and that some of the performances the team has had this year were due in fact to his attitude, Busch vowed that he was going to learn to control his emotions.
Some of his extreme emotions include stomping away from the media, calling his team out on the radio, insulting other drivers for "dumping" him or as one Kyle Busch fan put it this morning, acting like a tool to everyone around him.
“There’s a balancing act in everything you do and there’s consequences and ultimately repercussions for things so I’m trying to work on it," Busch said in a press conference on Friday.
After running in all three Series this past weekend in Indianapolis and not winning in any of them, Busch had plenty of chances to practice his new outlook on life and from my viewpoint, he passes with flying colors.
Sure, he wasn't happy about finishing second to Carl Edwards in the Nationwide race at ORP on Saturday and that's fine, but he sucked it up and gave an interview without seeming like he wanted to chew the reporters head off.
On Sunday he blew a right front tire and hit the wall and needed to head to the garage for repairs. The cameras showed Busch sitting in his garage stall as the team worked before emerging a short time later and giving ESPN an interview.
Busch needs to be applauded for that.
He seems to finally understand what the fans and media want to see. He drove his car in, collected his thoughts and was still able to give an interview full of the disappointment with his day.
But while Busch has succeed in showing he can improve his attitude, although it is just one weekend, he hasn't improved his results.
He's still dominating and being consistent in the Nationwide Series but can't seem to carry that over into the Cup Series on Sunday's. He finished 38th in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Just weeks after being laughed at because of my opinion, Kyle Busch is proving me right. After his finish on Sunday he now sits 14th in points and has an 82-point deficit to the 12th place and final Chase spot.
Only six races remain until the Chase field is officially locked in and Busch is going to need more then just a good attitude to be among them. He'll have to leapfrog David Reutimann in the 13th spot before he can make a run at Juan Pablo Montoya (10th), Greg Biffle (11th) and Matt Kenseth (12th).
Not only will the drivers in front of Busch be stiff competition but the upcoming six races aren't going to make things easy either.
The Cup Series heads to the triangle of the Pocono Raceway this weekend, a track that Busch has not had the best of performances on, he was 22nd there earlier this year. In 2008 Busch finished 43rd and 36th at Pocono and in fact Busch has only finish in the top 10 there twice in nine career races.
Then comes the road course of Watkins Glen, which Busch did win at last year. But remember the first road course this year—which Busch had won last year as well—and that didn't exactly go as planned.
Michigan will be next and he finished 13th there in June and reported that he might have had engine problems but his average finish at Michigan is only a 16.9 so he'll have to step it up.
Late August sees a return trip the bullring of Bristol, which Busch dominated and won at in March, but he's going to need another strong run if he wants to make the Chase.
Atlanta and Richmond in September will then be his last two shots to get in the top 12 and he'll return to Richmond as the May winner but Atlanta could be another crap shoot. He was 18th in March but over the next six weeks Kyle Busch can't afford to be satisfied with top 20 finishes.
If Kyle Busch is going to make the Chase for the Championship he can't finish outside the top 10 over the next six weeks. At this point in the season top 15's and top 20 finishes are like DNF's. They aren't going to get the job done and the drivers in front of Busch aren't going to just move over for him.
A year ago it was all about Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, they were winning week in and week out. But this year it's been Johnson, Martin, Stewart, Gordon and just a piece of Kyle Busch.
Sorry Kyle Busch fans, but he's not a shoe-in anymore. He could actually be a shoe out because of his average finishes for the next six racetracks: Pocono (22.0), Watkins Glen (12.5), Michigan (16.9), Bristol (11.2), Atlanta (18.2) and Richmond (6.1).
Busch has already proven my theory that he hasn't been consistent enough and may not make the Chase, over the next six weeks I'm going to be watching to see if he proves my next theory right.
Now that he's on the outside looking in, I don't think he's going to see the inside of the top 12 again.
Because in order to do that Kyle Busch needs to turn into the powerhouse and force he was in 2008 and if we haven't seen that halfway through the 2009 season, I'm afraid that person may have already packed up and headed to Lake Norman for an early start to the offseason.
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