Five races into the 2012 Nationwide Series schedule, Kyle Busch is experiencing just how difficult it can be to own a team in the upper tier of NASCAR. A combination of mistakes, bad luck, and slow race cars has added up to an average finish of 17.4 and just two lead lap finishes. His team’s performance has been a far cry from what we are used to seeing out of Busch.
From 2008 through 2011, Busch won a staggering 40 NNS races. On average, he won better than every third time he ran. In the 20 races he ran last season, Busch finished in the top five 17 times. But all this success came driving for the very established Nationwide program at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Coming into this season, Busch took on the task of expanding his already successful Truck Series team to include a full-time Nationwide effort. With backing from Monster Energy, brother Kurt co-driving, and veteran crew chief Mike Beam at the helm, I believe most thought it wouldn’t take long for this team to be a contender. But that just hasn’t been the case.
The most pressing concern for Busch and crew has to be the very clear lack of speed from the cars. The team has only qualified in the top ten once this season, and while he’s led laps in the last two races, the cars clearly aren’t as good as they need to be. Busch is the type of driver that can elevate the level of his equipment with his talent and ability (if you don’t believe that, compare Busch’s performance in KBM trucks versus the other guys that have driven for him), but a driver can only do so much. KBM builds all of its own chassis, and clearly more development is needed.
Besides the lack of speed, Busch has been the victim of mistakes on pit road. Driving for JGR, Busch’s cars were serviced by the same finely tuned and experienced crew guys that pit JGR Cup cars. But the pit crew at KBM is a standalone team. They are a talented and experienced team in their own right, but they just haven’t performed well. And Kyle Busch won’t wait long for them to figure it out.
We are currently in the midst of a two-week break for the Nationwide Series, and it probably couldn’t have come at a better time for KBM. This team won’t struggle forever, but turning KBM into a championship contender just might take a little longer than expected.