At the front of a fairly long line of drivers overly anxious to get the 2013 season up and moving stands Kyle Busch.
Busch was very un-Kyle-like in 2012, winning only one time, failing to make the Chase (while three other Toyota drivers did) and being listed as “absent” when most of the year’s big stories were being written.
In last season’s final week, Busch offered the opinion that, “I'm more excited about this year being over than anything else in my entire life.”
On the outside looking in is not a comfortable position for Busch, whose overdrive to succeed often gets him in trouble but whose fierce push-the-button driving style has become a keystone of Sprint Cup racing. When Busch is not winning, something’s missing.
“I've got to start living different, I guess,” Busch said. “I don't know what it is. I mean, I've had plenty of second- place and third-place finishes in my career. You know, this year I've had plenty of those, as well, too. I even have a sixth-place from Kansas where I should have won coming out of turn four, ran out of gas.
“Why it's not materializing, I can't tell you. But I don't know if you can keep a job in this sport by finishing second and third every single week or not, but hopefully I can because I seem not to be able to get to victory lane.”
Busch made 61 starts across NASCAR’s three national series in 2012, winning only once – in the spring race at Richmond. Only a year earlier, he won four times in Cup, eight in Nationwide and six in Truck.
Fuel mileage problems bit Busch several times, including, most spectacularly, at Dover in September. He led 302 laps but lost a fuel-mileage battle and finished seventh, leading to a controversial post-race radio tirade directed at Toyota Racing Development.
The difficulties stretched to the season finale at Homestead, where he led 191 laps but again lost the fuel-mileage contest.
For all these reasons and more, no one will be surprised if Busch is first on the launch line when preseason testing begins Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.