Three races into the 2013, and Kyle Busch is making the grade in the season’s final quarter with two second place finishes and a fifth. His performance is good enough to put him squarely near the head of the class with two past champions, JGR teammate and 2003 champion Matt Kenseth and the original “Five Time,” Jimmie Johnson. You can’t win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in September or October, but you can sure lose one, and so far Rowdy has avoided some of the pitfalls that have dogged him in the past.
The number four race in the Chase- Kansas- will offer the first big mid-term exam, if you will, for the talented, hard charger that aspires to be the valedictorian of the class of 2013. Kansas has been most cruel to Busch; in 12 career Cup starts, the winner of 28 NSCS races has only two top tens to show for his troubles. His average finish at the track is a lackluster 22.5.
At a Tuesday teleconference, Busch conveyed a greater sense of confidence, thanks ito a July tire test. “We felt like with the unsuccess we’ve had the last couple times being there since the repave, the tire combination we had, it was just really, really hard for me to get a feel for the tire and the racetrack that I was looking for.” He adds “We could run fast laps, post quick times in practice and qualifying. Just in the race when you get in traffic, everything starts changing, the rubber starts going down, it would throw us for a little bit of a curve.
“This time around, getting the tire test done, getting some information with the car, getting me more suited to the racetrack with a different tire combination, we felt like it was a positive for us.Certainly we hope those results will be indicative of how we run this weekend and we can have a better go of it” Busch concludes.
A top grade will be critical, as his two chief Chase rivals each boast a pair of wins at Kansas. Johnson has a sparkling driver rating of 119.1, best among active drivers, while points leader Kenseth is third with an impressive 110.0.
After the series stop in the heartland, it’s on to Charlotte, where he’s solid. Then it’s on to what Busch believes is his biggest test in the Chase: Talladega Superspeedway, the wild card. “Just how are you going to race there? Are you going to go full bore? Hang out, ride in the back? What exactly is going to happen? There’s so much unknown in that race, I think that’s the biggest test for everybody” he says.
He wraps it up by saying “It’s a matter of continuing to knock out these top fives right now, and when our wins come to us, hopefully they do, those will be the bonus points and those will be the extra points we need to get ourselves further up the ladder.Whether those guys finish second, third or further back, us winning races is what’s going to get us most points. That’s what it comes down to.”
“Right now it’s not make-it-or-break-it time, it’s certainly the time to keep getting solid finishes and keep doing solid runs throughout the races in order to get ourselves down into Texas, Phoenix, Homestead.” Busch doesn’t want to be the first to blink, up against two competitors with a laser-like focus.
If Busch’s confidence parlays into a solid run, it offers the best evidence yet this is not the Kyle Busch of 2008 or 2011. It will show, once and for all, that the Las Vegas native truly does not suffer from test anxiety and has developed a mastery of the course work.