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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kyle Busch lived by the sword, died by the sword

After the fourth race of the season at Atlanta, Kyle Busch stood seventh in points, while Mark Martin stood 34th.

After his amazing 2008, Busch seemed a lock for the Chase, but Martin would have an intense struggle if he was going to make it after such a terrible start to the season.

My, how times have changed.

With his four wins, Martin now sits on top of the charts, leading the points as the Chase begins. Busch, meanwhile, also with four wins, somehow managed to miss the Chase, mainly due to a terrible summer when it seemed his car was never just right.

So what happened? Why did Kyle fall and why did Mark rise?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Mark, as a seasoned veteran, knew the ultimate goal and took less risks on his quest to make the Chase. Meanwhile, Kyle, a young and fiery driver, lived in the moment and tried to grab every position he could every single week, regardless how risky the move was.

As the saying goes: You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Kyle’s slashing through traffic with reckless abandon might make great TV, and I love watching it, but it leads to situations where you end up finishing in the 30s. Meanwhile, Mark Martin was Mr. Consistent, simply driving a strong car to top-10 and top-5 finishes most weeks, without much fanfare. This method, while more boring, has him in the Chase with a legitimate shot at winning a title at age 50.

Though his racing instincts will fight it to the end, it’s very possible that Kyle will come back in 2010 a little less aggressive than he has been. This must happen if he is ever going to be a title contender. Just because Dale Earnhardt Sr. could drive aggressive and win titles doesn’t mean everyone else can.

Forget that for this year though, as he’s out of the Chase and will be going for the win every week, with no regard to the points. I expect him to take a few wins in the Chase for this reason, as the Chase contenders will have to take fewer risks than him.

I also stand by my prediction that NASCAR will tweak the Chase next to year to allow drivers like Kyle, who won four races, to make the Chase. It just isn’t right that he’s not allowed to compete for the title after winning more races than all but one of the top-12 drivers.


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