After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year.
We’ll continue on with the fourth-place driver in the championship, Kyle Busch…
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
2013 Stats: Fourth Place, Four Wins, 16 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 1,227 Laps Led
Average Start: 9.1
Average Finish: 12.7
Estrada Says: This past season saw Busch claim four Sprint Cup wins, but the most important thing he can take away from 2013 is that he didn’t fade in the Chase. A pair of runner-up finishes to begin the post-season at Chicagoland and Loudon had him in good position, but another dismal day at Kansas pretty much wiped out his title hopes. However, he claimed four Top-10s and had no finishes worse than 15th in the final six events. Now that he’s put his bad post-season reputation to rest, Busch would appear set to contend next year. With that said, he’ll have to cut down on his bad days – he had seven finishes of 30th or worse.
DiZinno Says: It seemed a more mature Busch in 2013, and a more successful one at that. As Chris outlined above, he had a Chase that didn’t completely go up in smoke for the first time, even if it wasn’t entirely a title-contender. Besides the four wins, his 22 top-10 finishes marked a career high in nine full-time Cup seasons, so the consistency was there. Undoubtedly Matt Kenseth’s switch to JGR made an impact, because Busch nor Denny Hamlin had the pressure of being the veteran leader while still developing themselves. Busch spoke highly of Kenseth’s presence throughout the year and the chemistry is there for an improved 2014. Still, the lingering question remains as to whether Busch can get through a single Chase unscathed.