2014 Ride: No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
2014 Crew Chief: Dave Rogers
2014 Points Finish: 10th
2014 Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 9 top fives, 15 top 10s, three poles, 453 laps led, 4 DNFs, 13.1 average start, 17.6 average finish
2014 Best Finish: First, once (Fontana)
High Point: The early portion of the season for “Rowdy” Busch and the No. 18 M&M’s/Interstate Batteries Toyota team marked a high point for the team’s 2014 campaign. Busch claimed his first, and only, victory of the season in March at Auto Club Speedway after he held off rookie Kyle Larson late in the race. It was then, the weeks preceding it, and shortly after, that Kyle Busch looked as good as any driver at the top of the Sprint Cup Series during 2014. However, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers had difficulty finding the speed and consistency necessary for strong runs late in the season, and going into the Chase.
Low Point: Most would say the lowest point in Busch’s season would probably be not advancing to the Eliminator Round of the Chase this season and having yet another year of failure for the No. 18 in NASCAR’s postseason, but it just might have been at Bristol this season where the train started to come off the track for Busch and Rogers. The No. 18 team had just come off a three-race skid, finishing 42nd at Pocono, 40th at the road course at Watkins Glen and 39th in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Not exactly the tail-end of the regular season that Busch was looking for in 2014.
And unfortunately, at Bristol, all the frustration of the late summer and early fall came to a head when Busch and Rogers clashed over radio communications after a wreck, and ultimately finished 36th. Some point to this low point in the No. 18 season as the main reason Joe Gibbs Racing decided to shuffle crew chiefs for the 2015 season, as Dave Rogers will shift to work with Denny Hamlin and the No. 11, while Adam Stevens, Busch’s Nationwide Series car crew chief, will be atop the pit box for the No. 18 team.
Summary: Kyle Busch suffered yet again a missed opportunity to run up front as the Chase for the Sprint Cup lingered on into the Eliminator Round. Busch went from finishing fourth in points in 2013 to 10th this season, and was missing not just the strong finishes needed to move on in the Chase, but consistency during the season as well. Poor communication between the 29-year-old Sprint Cup Series veteran and crew chief Dave Rogers may have led to a lone-victory season for the No. 18 team, and an early finish to the season when it came to the Chase.
2015 Outlook: Despite how the season ended for Kyle Busch, he still remains one of the sport’s top stars yet to win a Sprint Cup championship, and one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers. The 2015 season will bring many challenges to Busch and the No. 18 team. How will newcomer Adam Stevens adjust to life as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief? And how will Busch fare sharing the spotlight at Joe Gibbs Racing with yet another top star in Carl Edwards, who will drive the No. 19 Toyota for JGR?
Busch will be in one of the best situations he’s been in going into the 2015 season. He’s hungry from making the Chase, but failing to advance, he has something to prove with a new crew chief (whom he’s comfortable with and has had great success), and he’s in a very solid organization at JGR now with four cars in the Sprint Cup stable (Hamlin, Edwards, Kenseth and Busch). Expect to see another solid performance out of Kyle Busch in 2015, including some more victories and another trip to the Chase. We’ll have to wait and see if this time around he can put together the speed with consistent finishes deep into the postseason.
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