Did you hear the one about Kyle Busch missing the Chase?
Kyle Busch, who has spent the last 18 months winning what seems like an endless number of races across all three of NASCAR’s top series, has been on a downward spiral that is among the biggest surprises of the season … and he might not make the Chase if things don’t pick up soon.
In the past eight races, Busch has earned just one top-10 finish, and struggled mightily the rest of the time. After blowing a tire and wrecking out of the Brickyard 400 on Sunday and finishing 38th, his worst finish since a 41st in the Daytona 500, he is now 14th in points … 82 points removed from a spot in the playoff. The next race is at Pocono, where Busch has never been great, and there are only a handful of races left before the Chase after that.
So what’s ailing Busch?
I think that at least some of the problem is Busch’s endless track-hopping as he tries to race in every Nationwide race and most Truck races. When you are in the desperate situation he is facing now in Cup, you need to focus on your main goal. If earning a Nationwide title costs you a shot at even competing for the Cup title, then it’s not worth doing all the Nationwide races. That wasn’t to blame at Indy, but I believe it has played a role in some of his other lackluster performances lately.
But all the blame can’t be put on Kyle. The Gibbs team has been putting cars on the track lately that are not up to the level of the cars Busch drove to 8 race wins in 2008. He has 3 wins this year, but is not competing consistently up front this season like he was last year.
I still believe Busch is talented enough and the Gibbs team is strong enough that he will pull himself out of this unexpected hole and make the Chase this year. But even if he does make the Chase, he won’t be much of a factor unless the #18 team can get back to its 2008 form.
This past week, Busch admitted that he could have a better attitude when he doesn’t win races, and that he could be more of a team player. Now, he will have to make those attitude adjustments and hope for the best … because with the competition for the Chase spots so tight, it’s clear that nothing but a consistent effort full of top-10s for the next month and a half will get him into the title hunt.
And as much as some people might hate Kyle Busch, we should all root for him to make it, because a Chase without Kyle Busch would be a lot more boring than a Chase that includes him.
Perfect day ruined for Montoya
As I was watching the Brickyard race, I was conflicted. I was, at the same time, rooting for Juan Pablo Montoya to get his first oval win and also lamenting just how predictable and boring most of the race had been so far.
Montoya put on a clinic over the rest of the field for 75 percent of the race. There was no question this was Montoya’s day to claim that first oval win. And then it happened, the dreaded pit road speeding penalty. As Montoya railed on the radio that he was being “screwed” by NASCAR and had not been speeding, the damage was done and he knew it, and he went on to finish 11th.
While he may not have gotten the win, a run like that is a good example of how far this team has come in 2009. With so many open-wheelers having failed and gone, it’s nice to see one have a consistent level of success like that in NASCAR.