It is going to be interesting to see if the changes made within Joe Gibbs Racing, specifically within the No. 18 team, will produce the results that Kyle Busch's talent is capable of in 2010.
We know JGR is loaded with talent and are a great organization. However, for lack of a better term, they haven't been able to close the deal.
You have to know that team owner Joe Gibbs and J.D.Gibbs want to know why they haven't reached that level yet with the No. 18. If I am Kyle Busch and I am as talented as I am and as driven as I am, you bet I would want to know the answer. Collectively they have to be asking themselves what part of the puzzle they are missing.
We all know Busch can run door-to-door with four-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. We know that Kyle can beat the field quite handily on any given Sunday at any given racetrack. We know they are always going to have a decent year, but when are they going to have a great year and put the NASCAR Sprint Cup crown on top of Kyle's head?
I think he is very capable of wearing that crown, and to me that's what this year is all about when it comes to Kyle Busch.
In the past, folks were quick to say that Kyle is clearly a race winner but are hesitant to say he is a championship contender. That team, once they make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, has yet to make the statement to the competition that they are the ones to beat.
If you look at the "regular season" (the first 26 races) during the last two years, you would be hard pressed to find someone with a better performance record than Kyle Busch. His team runs well, they win races and they put bigger point numbers up on the board. But if you look at the last 10 races of the last two years, they clearly have one of the most disappointing statistical finishes of all in the Chase.
I know he doesn't want to race as hard as he does all year long only to come up short when the title is on the line. To use a sports analogy, that is very A-Rodish. If you remember, before Alex Rodriguez won the championship in 2009 with the New York Yankees, he was always great in the regular season, but he and his teams simply couldn't win the big title. Here we are with Busch who is in the same scenario - bottom line is that the guy is flat out good, but he's lacking a title. And that's the reason he isn't on Jimmie Johnson's level yet because Jimmie is great. Jimmie isn't flashy, but he can close the deal. When it's time for show time, this is where Jimmie, Chad Knaus and that entire No. 48 far exceed everyone else.
A-Rod was able to turn things around in 2009, is this the year Busch can as well?
I firmly believe Kyle will be back in the Chase this year. I don't think they will be able to keep him out. However, getting there is one thing, but what they do in the final 10 races, well that is the rest of the story. Every driver, crew chief and team know what they have to do to make the Chase. The other part of the equation that still has teams scratching their heads about is how to win. You have to be able to win races.
Making the Chase, the Top 12 is an accomplishment and I don't want to diminish that one bit. However, you have to be able to win races in those final 10 events to realistically think you can win the championship. I think now more than ever, all these teams understand it. Now Kyle Busch has proven he can win races in the first 26, but the key to the championship is can he find a way to win in the final 10?