KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Busch stood outside his hauler in the infield at Kansas Speedway last week, wearing shades on an overcast day. Busch looked comfortable, breezily answering questions, even though he acknowledges the stress that weighs on him.
This is supposed to be the year the Las Vegas native finally wins a Cup title.
He’s married now and has mellowed slightly, showing more maturity on and off the track. Busch, 26, has won four times to push his career total to 30, and started the Chase as the "top seed."
But Busch has gotten off to a mediocre start through three races coming into Kansas, where his season has gone bust his last few title runs. He’s eighth entering today’s race in the tightly bunched Chase standings, 15 points off co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
"There’s 43 guys out here every week that if they don’t win, they didn’t meet the potential they wanted to," Busch said before qualifying third.
"There’s been times we won races and we didn’t feel like we reached everything we needed to reach. It’s high pressure, it’s high stakes. There’s a lot on the line and this is a performance business, and you’ve certainly got to make the most of it. We’re trying every week."
It just hasn’t been quite good enough.
Busch started the Chase with a 26th-place run at Chicago and was 11th at New Hampshire before a sixth-place run last weekend at Dover restored some confidence. He had hoped to get off to a better start, knowing Kansas Speedway is rarely kind to him.
Busch came to the 1½-mile tri-oval 10 points out of the Chase lead in 2007, his final year with Hendrick Motorsports, when he got tangled up with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last year, Busch was sitting third in the standings when he spun David Reutimann early in the race. Busch called it unintentional contact, but it didn’t sit well with Reutimann. He got payback with 122 laps left when Busch was running seventh, hitting the outside of his car and forcing him into the wall. Busch finished 21st and dropped to seventh in the standings.
In June, a simmering feud between Busch and Richard Childress Racing really ignited.
Busch had bumped Childress driver Joey Coulter on a cool-down lap after the Trucks race. Childress, 65, showed his displeasure by assaulting Busch, drawing a $150,000 fine from NASCAR.
It added another reason for Busch to dislike coming to Kansas.
"When it’s one of your least favorite racetracks, it’s not beneficial to come here twice," he said. "We’ll work hard and take what we can get out of this weekend. We know it’s going to be a hard one for us, and we’re really going to have to dig in."
Busch got off to a good start with a solid qualifying effort Friday.
He’ll start third, alongside Matt Kenseth, who is just ahead of him in seventh in the Chase, with two-time Kansas winner Greg Biffle and Chase co-leader Edwards on the front row.