MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch gave a candid assessment of the best finish of his career in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points Monday, saying his performance in past postseasons often tailed off because he didn't care as much once he was out of championship contention.
Busch's comments came one day after he wrapped up a fourth-place finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, capped by his seventh-place run in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Years past, you've probably seen it if you study it enough, but you would notice that when I'd eliminate myself or get eliminated from the championship, it'd pretty much just go pfffft! Right?" Busch said. "I'd finish 10th, I'd finish 12th, I'd finish ninth, whatever it might be. This was the first year that I really gave total focus through the whole thing and just said, 'doesn't matter if we get eliminated, we're going to continue to battle hard all the way through and see where we end up,' and we ended up fourth.
"As far as I was considered in the past, if I wasn't going to win the championship, I didn't care where I'd finish in the points."
Busch said the change in attitude this season was for a fairly simple reason.
"Too many people were telling me that I suck, and that I fold up when it comes to the end of the season, which is true. I do," Busch said. "You know, when the championship is on the line and you start falling away from that, you give up and you're like, 'Ah, whatever. Another year wasted. Go on to next year.' This year, we changed that, we fought hard all the way through and I wished we ended up better, but we finished fourth."
In his five Chase appearances before this season, Busch's best finish was fifth in 2007, his final year with Hendrick Motorsports before moving to his current team, Joe Gibbs Racing. In 2008, he wilted to a 10th-place result in the final standings after an eight-win regular season. His other Chase results were little, if any, better: 10th in 2006, eighth in 2010 and 12th in 2011.
This season, Busch righted the ship after an exasperating crash-related 34th at Kansas Speedway in October. He fell to fifth in the points, but dipped no lower than that the rest of the way.
Despite his uptick in postseason performance and the season-long strength of Gibbs teammate Matt Kenseth, his inability to make inroads on Jimmie Johnson's dominant march to a sixth Sprint Cup crown -- finishing 55 points back -- was clearly a troubling reality.
"Depressing. Very depressing, because no matter how good you are, your level, you still got your ass handed to you," Busch said. "I mean, Jimmie had no bad luck. His worst finish was 13th? That's really good, but you're also going to have to win one of these Chase races. It's just so hard."
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