Kyle Busch is going to explode this season—and I mean that in a positive way.
Call it a gut feeling, but the younger Busch brother is not going to stand for another lackluster season like he had in 2012, when he not only failed to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but had just one win the entire year (Spring Cup race at Richmond).
For all the criticism that is heaped upon him, you would be hard-pressed to find a more competitive driver on the circuit today. Busch is like Tony Stewart (also one of the most competitive drivers in the sport) on steroids. The key difference is Stewart has matured with age and knows when to temper his temper. Busch, meanwhile, is still learning that art.
Here's the primary reason I see Busch coming back with a vengeance in 2013. We're talking about a guy who has 105 combined wins in NASCAR's three professional divisions: 24 in Sprint Cup, 51 in Nationwide and 30 in Trucks.
Yet in 2012, his wins scorecard read 1-0-0 across all three series.
Busch is not the type of driver to stand for a mark like that. You know he has to be angry with that performance and angry at himself.
One thing that 2012 also showed was that after considerably scaling back his extracurricular racing on the Nationwide and Trucks schedules, his "A" game in the Cup series suffered immeasurably.
Busch was supposed to have been able to focus much more on his full-time job by cutting back on his two part-time gigs. In theory, that was supposed to make him more successful, maybe even lead him to his first Sprint Cup championship.
Instead, everything went south and he was nowhere near the intimidating—and winning—presence that he had been in previous seasons.
So what's a guy to do in that instance?
As the late Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders was known for saying, "Just win, baby."
And that's what I and likely many of KyBusch's fans expect him to do in 2013.
To date, Busch's best season was in 2007, when he finished fifth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, recording just one win.
But the following season, Busch won a single-season career-high eight races and still wound up finishing a mediocre 10th, due primarily to a horrible Chase when he recorded four finishes of 28th or worse in the first six races of NASCAR's playoff.
Can Busch win eight races in 2013? Not likely, but I could easily see him winning five races, much like Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and reigning Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski did in 2012.
It might be premature to say Busch has learned his lesson after a number of on-and-off track episodes in recent seasons. He was suspended for one Cup race near the end of the 2011 season after intentionally pile-driving Ron Hornaday Jr. into a wall in a trucks race two nights earlier. Then there was the May 2011 incident where he was caught on radar by a sheriff's deputy doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone.
There have also been a number of run-ins with fellow drivers during races in all three series.
And who's to forget when team owner and 60-some-year-old grandfather Richard Childress put Busch in an infamous headlock at Kansas a couple years back?
Believe it or not, with 105 wins across all three series, Busch is only 27 years old. He turns 28 in May.
There's no question he has some of the greatest God-given natural talent that anyone has ever had in NASCAR. Further, he has proven time and again that he can race (and win) in anything. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if he once tried to get into and win an impromptu race on a bicycle with some of his suburban Charlotte neighbors … or maybe even his own wife, Samantha.
He really is THAT competitive.
Busch is an immense talent that will continue to grow with each passing season. What he did in 2012 was an aberration.
What he does in 2013 will likely be more like the Kyle of old, or at least pre-2012. He simply had an off year last season. It can happen to anyone.
But the mark of a good racer is how well he bounces back in a big way from a bad season.
Mark my word, 11 months from now, we'll be talking about the outstanding season Busch had—and we might have to go so far as to call him Kyle the new Sprint Cup champion.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski