Two things are certain after Sunday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Kyle Busch added another win and now has four on the season, and unlike last season he will be in the field for the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With his win, Busch is now locked into the Chase a far cry from where he was this time last season.
“It all comes full circle sometimes, but we were in a whole different situation 365 days ago and not being able to make the Chase,” Busch told Examiner after his win Sunday night. “Tonight was a night where we needed to prove to ourselves that we're championship contenders. “
But will this Chase run turn out any better than his previous ones; is Busch truly a contender?
Busch has never finished a season higher than fifth in the points, that coming in 2007. In his Chase appearances since then however, the results have been less than stellar. He finished 10th in 2008, missed the Chase in 2009 as well as last year, and finished a disappointing 8th in 2010 and 12th in 2011. In all of his Chase appearances to date, Busch has seemingly lost the momentum that got him into the Chase.
In his last Chase run, in 2011, Busch had also won four races leading up to the Chase, but finished outside the top 20 in the last four events. Sunday night, Busch wasn’t ready to talk about his momentum in the Chase this year.
“It’s early. It's real early,” he said. “We've still got one more week before we even start the Chase. You know, there's a lot of things that can happen, and it's certainly -- you've got to -- I've said it before, I think, maybe many a times, but you've got to ride the wave when it's yours and take it for as long as you can and see how far you can carry it.”
One thing that’s different for Busch this time around is the lessons he learned after missing the Chase last season.
“Last year I felt like we learned a lot,” Busch said. “We missed the Chase, but Dave (crew chief Dave Rogers) and I went into the end of the year, we didn't give up, we didn't just lame duck the rest of the year and ride around, we actually worked hard and pushed ourselves to be better, and probably didn't quite push as hard as we could have a couple times with some other guys racing for their championship. But I think that we did a good job of learning and learning what we could do and learning how we can contend and compete, and that's what we need to focus on this year is doing some of those same things.”
As he showed Sunday at Atlanta, when Busch has all the right pieces in place he can definitely be a contender. With those lessons learned from last season, Busch hopes to make this Chase have a better outcome than in years past.
“I think if you're a race car driver you want to succeed and be the best in your realm of racing,” he said. “For me I'm a NASCAR driver, and I want to be able to win NASCAR championships. One of these days it will happen, and maybe it's 2013. Hopefully it is. But there's a lot of work that goes involved in that, and it's not easy. It wasn't easy tonight, but we worked hard and continued to focus on what was next, and I think that if we can try to do that in these next 11 weeks, then maybe we can be hoisting a pretty-looking trophy. “