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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Key to success for Kyle Busch is all in his head

The big topic this week is whether Joe Gibbs made the right move in removing Kyle Busch’s crew chief, Steve Addington, and replacing him with Dave Rogers from the #20 Nationwide team.

That’s debatable, as both are very talented, but I’m not here to argue that point.

I contend that if Kyle Busch wants to know why he missed the Chase this year and doesn’t contend for titles like Jimmie Johnson, despite winning almost as often over the past two years, is very simple – it’s all in his head.

In all the champions I’ve seen in all sports, there is one trait that stands out among the best of them: Calm in the face of chaos.

Jimmie Johnson is the epitome of this. No matter how close or far the points lead or deficit, he goes about his business with precision and usually comes out on top.

Busch is highly talented, but many of his poor finishes over the past few years can be attributed to his emotions, and how he handled adversity. Last year, after a parts failure put him down early in the Chase, his mind just wasn’t in it anymore and he sulked his way to a terrible Chase finish.

In every sport, a certain amount of the advantage winners have is mental, to varying degrees. Extreme mood swings of the kind Busch has shown this year in various series don’t exactly lead to a serene mental picture, and can have negative implications on how a driver finishes in races and the points.

Also, Kyle didn’t do himself any favors by running the entire Nationwide season and half the truck races in 2009. Next year, wisely, he is scaling back, as that is something he must do if he wants to compete with Johnson and others for a title.

Talent will get you far in NASCAR, but once you’re at that level you need focus, concentration and a cool head to become the best of the best. No one doubts Kyle has the talent to be champ, but does he have the mental fortitude to get through a Chase and finish on top?

I would love to see it, as a Kyle Busch championship would be a great story, if only for how many people were upset that he won. Things have gotten boring with the #48 team’s domination, and we need the bad guy to win a little now.

Whether that happens next year will have a lot to do with Kyle and how much he can mature mentally.

Scary holiday, scary track
It’s Halloween, and fittingly we’re going to scary Talladega, where the slightest tap can wreck the entire field (except Jimmie Johnson of course, he’s indestructible.). Call me boring if you will, but here’s hoping we get through the races this weekend without a massive, dangerous crash that tears up half the cars in the field.

While plate racing may be fun to watch, I’d rather see hard side-by-side racing instead of the huge packs. There has to be a way the engineers can come up with to achieve that at acceptable speeds, and it’s a shame we’ll likely never see it happen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Gordon has never been the face of "calm in the midst of chaos" as a driver. One of Ray Evernham's biggest jobs was baby-sitting Jeff when he started whining and crying that "this is the worst car I have ever driven, I can't drive it at all." Frequently enough, that same car ended up in Victory Lane a few hours later. Gordon is somewhat better now, though still given to whining, but you may notice Jeff isn't winning much these days. So maturity and championships don't always go together.

Busch needs a slight attitude adjustment to avoid repeating self-inflicted wounds like those at Daytona in July and the road race where he screwed up, but a crew chief who can deal with his mercurial temperament as well as Evernham dealt with Jeff's may be just as important.

Mercurial is not all bad. (After all, Brett Favre does have a Super Bowl ring. Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino do not.)

October 29, 2009 at 6:56 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't wish to bash anyone, but, I don't watch any athlete that behaves an an imature child, whatever the sport. Kyle's future may be in his head, but for now it is full of bologna.

October 29, 2009 at 9:31 AM 

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