Welcome to From the Marbles' 2014 season previews. Here's how we think the Chase will shake out in this first year of 16 drivers and eliminations. Will we be right? Unlikely, but it's fun to think about our soothsaying possibilities until the green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.
Driver: Kurt Busch
2013 Finish: 10th
2013 Highlight: Should we say "making the Chase?" After moving to his second single-car team in two years, no one really knew what the expectations really were for Busch in 2013. Sure, the team's stated goal was to make the Chase, but most everyone says that entering a season. What else are you supposed to say on the media tour?
Sure enough, the team did make the Chase. Busch moved into the top 10 for the first time at Daytona in July, and despite falling back to 14th the next week, he was in the top 10 when the checkered flag flew at Richmond.
2013 Lowlight: Busch's low point isn't necessarily a single one, and it's a little different than everyone else's. The cars that Furniture Row had for him were staggeringly fast. It got to the point where it was more surprising to see Busch buried on the speed charts in practice and/or qualifying than it was to see him in the top five.
However, none of that speed transferred over to a win. A myriad of problems ensued, from pit crew slowness, to mistakes and to mechanical failures that Busch never got to victory lane. Sure, the goal of "making the Chase" was accomplished, but at the same time, the speed set up the legitimate possibility of a race win. It never happened.
Why is Busch here? If you subscribe to the theory that Busch has upgraded teams, than it's pretty simple. He's obviously not forgotten how to drive, and he should have a more consistent team and if he's as blazingly fast as he was last year, a win or two is to be expected.
How could Busch not be here? Are there going to be Stewart-Haas growing pains again? Busch has effusively talked about the benefits of being at a single-car team over the last two years. Are the multi-car team issues that have been alluded to going to pop up?
Best Winter Olympic Event: Busch would be a really good short track speed skater. Call it a hunch, but we think he'd be sneakily tricky and figure out how to trip everyone in front of him without getting called for a foul.
Worst Winter Olympic Event: Pairs figure skating. We're thinking that a partner may not take too kindly to insinuations about monkeys and footballs.
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