Why Kyle and Kurt Busch Are Both Legit NASCAR Sprint Cup Title Threats in 2014

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 07:  (L-R) Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Beautyrest Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's American Heritage Chocolate Toyota, celebrate after qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 56th Annual Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Oh brother! Don't be surprised if talk starts picking up a lot about the Busch brothers—Kurt and Kyle—as potential Sprint Cup champions in 2014.

The sibling tag team could very well be the biggest obstacles to Jimmie Johnson winning a record-tying seventh Cup championship next season, not to mention standing in the way of other would-be champs such as Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and others.

Why is 2014 a potential magical year for the Busch brothers? The answer is simple: They both finally got it right in 2013—which I'll explain further in a moment—and as a result, that bodes well for next season, perhaps more so than in any other season to date.

Granted, Kurt Busch already has one Cup championship under his belt, being the first driver to win the title under the Chase format when it came into being in 2004.

But with his move to Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt Busch will finally have made the full climb back up the mountain of credibility, respect and apology after the embarrassing way he was released from Penske Racing following the 2011 season after a number of run-ins with team members and members of the media.

In particular was a season-ending expletive-filled trashing of ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch that was the final straw for team owner Roger Penske.

Give credit where credit is due: Busch worked his way back up the NASCAR credibility ladder first by driving for Phoenix Racing, then Furniture Row Racing and will now be part of a four-driver juggernaut at SHR that will feature Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick.

The elder Busch brother seems to finally have gotten control of his temper, based upon his almost choir boy-like attitude in 2013. To his credit, while he kept his anger in check, he was perhaps as competitive as he's been in the last half-dozen seasons, becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to make the Chase from a single-car operation (ultimately finishing 10th in the final standings).

That's a good thing—a very, very good thing.

And even though SHR will now have four of the most tempestuous drivers in the sport, together they can form arguably the most talented group there is to go head-to-head with Johnson and the rest of Hendrick Motorsports (ironically enough, SHR gets its motors and chassis from HMS).

And then there's younger brother Kyle.

Like his elder sibling, Kyle pretty much stayed out of trouble and the glare of the spotlight in 2013, only having the bright light shine down upon him where warranted by success on the racetrack.

After failing to make the Chase in 2012, KyBusch came back with a vengeance in the Sprint Cup this past season, finishing a career-high fourth in the final standings. He won four races and had a career-high 22 top-10 finishes in 36 starts.

In addition, Busch won 17 more races in his part-time jobs on the Nationwide (12 wins) and Camping World Trucks (five wins) series.

Without question, everything is looking bright and sunny for the two brothers heading into 2014. They've both obviously seen the wrongness of their past ways, not to mention what good can happen if they stay out of trouble and let their immense talent shine through and do the talking for them, as it did in 2013.

If I had to pick between the two, I'd give a slight edge to Kyle winning the championship this season. As he enters his 10th full-time season on the Cup side—yes, can you believe it's been that long already?—Busch has been almost a perennial champion in waiting for the last six or seven seasons.

Now it's time for him to live up to that billing and win it all.

As for Kurt, I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish a close second to younger brother Shrub (Kyle's nickname). Who knows, with a bit of luck here or there, Kurt could potentially win his second Cup crown, as well.

Kurt Busch will have arguably the best equipment he's ever had in his Cup career at SHR, which should only further magnify his talent behind the wheel as it did this past season with Furniture Row Racing.

After the way he dominated in 2013, I'm sure there are a lot of people thinking that Johnson is going to have a cakewalk en route to championship No. 7 in 2014.

I disagree. If at least one of the Busch brothers—if not both in tandem—get the optimal results from their immense collective and individual talents, Johnson could be in for the hardest season he's ever had competition-wise in his career.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski


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