A couple weeks back in this space, I wondered what was up with Dale Earnhardt Jr., finishing poorly after qualifying so well in Atlanta. Well, Junior's doing fairly well by this point -- more on him later today -- so now we turn our eyes to another underachiever, one Kyle Busch.
I admit that I'm tilting the table right off the bat by calling Kyle an "underachiever," but seriously -- when you've got a guy who won four races in 2009 and eight in 2008, but has only one top-10 finish so far this season, what else are you going to say?
Look, make no mistake, Kyle's one of NASCAR's best. He's sitting at No. 10 in the Chase standings, and he's been much calmer, by and large, this year than in the past. Problems that would have had Kyle storming for the exits last year have remained minor bumps rather than major crises.
So what's up? The NASCAR Insiders point to a theory that's going to gain a lot of steam if things continue the way they are: it's Steve Addington's fault. More specifically, the fact that Addington was sent packing from the 18 team and later picked up by brother Kurt Busch has helped engender Kurt's success and Kyle's decline.
There's evidence to support the idea: while Kyle has notched only one top-10, Kurt has brought home one win, two top-fives, three top-10s and one pole. And both Kurt and Addington have noted that they've taken more than the usual satisfaction in beating the 18 team.
Some observers have aired the possibility that Kyle's more distracted than usual because of his new truck team, though ownership didn't exactly seem to hurt Tony Stewart last year.
Bottom line, Kyle will probably be fine, though as last year showed, a Chase berth isn't a guarantee. The next couple months will go a long way toward determining the success or failure of Kyle's 2010.