Heading Into 2011: Chasing The Probable Top 12 in Sprint Cup Racing (Pt. 11 of 12)
For a driver who embraces the nickname "Rowdy," Kyle Busch certainly gave plenty of moments to remember in 2010 for racing fans.
Whether you love him or not, if there's one thing that the younger Busch brother is, in a word, it's "entertaining."
Immensely talented, the 25-year-old put on a season for the ages in all the major NASCAR touring series.
Chew on this: he placed eighth in the Cup standings, grabbed third spot as a part-time competitor in the Nationwide ranks with 13 wins, and hoisted the owner's championship in the Camping World Truck Series.
When the Las Vegas, NV reflects at this past season, he'll probably remember it as the building block to what might be his best shot at the Cup in 2011.
Similar to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in Denny Hamlin, the seventh-year racer has been learning to harness his aggression with a touch of patience and guile.
Perhaps it's a result of all his hard earned lessons on the track, as he's learned just how hard he can push the envelope, or in this case, his 800 horsepower racecar.
Stacked with so much talent, one thing to wonder about with Kyle Busch is if he even recognizes his abilities behind the wheel, which seems to be such a natural trait.
As NASCAR on ESPN broadcaster Allen Bestwick once said about the young guns of stock car racing, it's fitting to look at the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota in this light:
To be so young and so brave...
Racers are a rare breed of athletes who have to be courageous, smart, and willing to make the improbable moves on the track if they want to win races and titles.
How many racers in the Cup ranks are willing to pull off the moves that Busch uses when the checkered flag is in sight?
Of course, all of them want to win - who doesn't?
In the case of Busch, when it comes to making the daring three-wide move or when to use the "bump and run" technique, on most occasions, he comes out on top.
He used the patented technique on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at the May 2008 race at Richmond, bumping the No. 88 Chevrolet from a winning tank to a frustrated pile of sheet metal.
Even when there's no points on the line, Busch wants to win - even it means going three wide, right in the middle between Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman while battling for the lead in the Sprint All-Star Race in 2009.
Throw him any situation in stock car racing and he'll most likely accept the challenge.
Sometimes, it doesn't work out but his attempts to charge to the front are always exciting to watch.
Additionally, he's very outspoken when it comes to his thoughts of a race.
Rub him the wrong way and he'll dish it in front of millions of households watching the tube or the pilgrimage gathered at the racetracks of America.
Sometimes, he doesn't even need to use words to get a point across.
Take for instance, the events that took place after the March 21, 2009 running of the Scotts Turf Builder 300 at Bristol, which was a Nationwide race.
Having dominated the race, leading 156 of the 300 circuits that day, a botched pit stop towards the conclusion of the event relegated Busch to a sixth-place result.
Hardly indicative of the finish that he hoped for, he pulled off a rather polarizing tactic, parking his car in between turns three and four during the cool-down lap and walked back to the garage area.
Rather unprecedented in these days of NASCAR racing, least to say, his No. 18 pit crew had to retrieve the car and push it back to the hauler, perhaps as a statement or a motivator for failing to win the race.
What happens the next day in the Food City 500?
Oh, just the usual stuff - the usual as in whipping the competition, leading 378 of 503 laps for the win.
While some feel his demeanor is somewhat brash and arrogant, there's one thing to understand with Kyle Busch: he races to win and anything short of that is a day of disappointment.
His 2010 season in the Cup car wasn't too bad, but it was hardly indicative of the kind of dominating performances that he's capable of putting together.
Anybody would take three wins (Richmond, Dover, and Bristol), 10 top-fives and 18 top-10's, which translated to an eighth place points finish.
However, the one prize in the Sprint Cup ranks that he'd like to bring home (besides the Daytona 500's Harley J. Earl Trophy) is the championship, which would immortalize him with several stock car legends like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Dale Earnhardt.
Those names gritted it out for several campaigns, beating and banging their way for wins, grinding it out in championship battles, and most of all, entertaining fans for their exciting driving styles.
Much like older brother Kurt, who won the 2004 title, if Kyle looks to hoist the Cup, he's really going to have to learn to choose his battles.
When he's really been wronged, in the age of "Boys, have at it," speak your mind! A little honesty never hurt anyone.
On the flip side, if he's just been the recipient of a little contact or if something irks him early in a race, he'll need to learn to let it slip by him and keep moving forward.
Crew chief Dave Rogers has a full season of Cup action with Busch, so he'll probably know how to pump his driver up as well as when to calm him down during the heat of the action.
Last but not least, one thing on Kyle Busch's side is his stellar pit crew, who finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Tissot Pit Road Precision Award standings, ultimately placing second due to their final points finish (with Matt Kenseth's team placing fifth).
By learning to channel his aggression, frustration, and temper into fuel for fire for maximum points, there will certainly be plenty of trips to Victory Lane (say six to eight "visits").
A true racer, he'll compete in any event possible during a weekend and still have his focus and attention on his Cup car and team, ready to duke it out in his steel chariot.
Perhaps the 2011 season might be the best one yet for Kyle Busch, who's projected to place as the runner-up in the final points rundown.
Not by a long shot, especially if he has his head in check throughout the year.
Good enough to beat Jimmie Johnson?
Time will tell, but for now, if the M&M's team has its act together, they'll definitely give it their best for the Sprint Cup championship in 2010 in a way only Kyle Busch knows how to do it: full throttle style!