New Kyle, old Kyle. Either way, as the 2011 NASCAR season nears the Chase, a great deal of attention is being placed on Kyle Busch. With four victories, Busch is leading the standings and would continue to lead once the field is reset for the final 10 races.
With momentum on his side, many are looking at Busch as having the best shot at dethroning five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. But can he keep his composure and finally seal the deal?
Turn back to 2008. Busch was having the kind of year any driver would dream of. With eight wins going into the Chase, Busch was on top of the world, led the standings and was the favorite for the championship. Then, once the 10-race Chase began, everything fell apart.
Instead of contending for the title, Busch had six finishes of 15th or worse (including four finishes of 28th or worse), ending the year 10th in points. What should have been a stellar season left Busch frustrated and without a championship.
While he has not reached the eight-win mark this season, Busch has been much more composed and consistent throughout. And that has the competition keeping a close eye on Busch.
Johnson described Busch as being "fast" all season long, but reminded everyone anything can happen in the final 10 races.
Jeff Gordon echoed his teammate's comments, saying Busch's team has momentum on their side, but has shown weaknesses throughout the season as well.
"Every year, when it comes Chase time, you think ‘Oh, is this going to be the year that Kyle wins it?' And they've self-destructed in the past," Gordon said. "So is the maturity level, is the experience, is the team, are they all better prepared this year to not self-destruct when the Chase comes around? Only time will tell."
Right now, though, Busch is remaining focused on the task at hand and not getting too wrapped up in all the talk.
"You have to be smart and try to do what you've done all year long and contend for the race and try to win the races and when you don't, if it's a third, finish third," he said. "That's certainly what we've go to do when it boils down to Chase time. We've been good at being able to do that thus far this year so hopefully it doesn't change throughout the final 10 (races)."