It’s fair to say that 2015 has been a less than straightforward year for Kyle Busch.
The 30-year-old might have suspected that this year would be a challenging one when he parted ways with crew chief Dave Rogers at the end of the 2014 season, but neither Busch nor his new Xfinity Series crew chief Adam Stevens could have predicted what was in store for the star of the Joe Gibbs Racing team during the last nine months.
Happily for Busch and his team, the year appears to be set for a positive ending, after the Las Vegas native clinched seventh-place in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 to confirm his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The remarkable resilience shown by Busch in bouncing back from a year ravaged by injury and controversy will make him one of the most discussed drivers of the chase, and bookmakers like 32Red will only have recent form to study when calculating his odds in the Chase.
There are five spots in the Chase field still to be decided, based on points rather than race wins, and the regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway is set to be a hotly contested race, with Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer attempting to fend off the challenge of Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola in the qualifying positions.
But Busch is safely through to the Chase thanks to his four wins this year, and the tale of his 2015 so far is one worth re-telling, testament as it is to the grit and determination of one of NASCAR’s toughest drivers.
Drama at Daytona
The year got off to a difficult start for Busch when his name hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Sports commentator Keith Olbermann wrongly criticized Busch over a domestic violence case, when it was in fact Kyle’s brother Kurt who was involved in the incident, and Olbermann had simply made a mistake.
Having shaken off this misdirected controversy, Busch turned his focus to the Daytona 500, even forgoing the truck series race at Daytona to ensure his performance in the 500 was the best it could be.
Going into the Daytona 500 in February, Busch was one of the favorites with sites like NASCAR Wagers, and he was well on top for the entire first half of the race. But fate had a twist in store, and Busch was penalized for speeding when exiting a pit road, and the stop-and-go penalty saw him pegged back to 23rd place.
In moments of adversity, they say that great drivers show their true mettle. If that is the case, then it is safe to say Busch has the mark of a true great, as anyone who witnessed him battle back from 23rd to second within 15 laps of his penalty in Daytona will testify. Busch tucked in behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson in the final race standings after a superb comeback.