Top 20 countdown: No. 2 Kyle Busch

Jay Hart

(Photos: Getty Images)

2008 statistics

Finish Poles Wins Top 5 Top 10
10 2 8 17 21

The countdown
No. 20: Martin Truex Jr.
No. 19: Juan Pablo Montoya
No. 18: Kurt Busch
No. 17: Kasey Kahne
No. 16: Brian Vickers
No. 15: Tony Stewart
No. 14: Jamie McMurray
No. 13: Clint Bowyer
No. 12: David Ragan
No. 11: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
No. 10: Denny Hamlin
No. 9: Matt Kenseth
No. 8: Jeff Burton
No. 7: Greg Biffle
No. 6: Mark Martin
No. 5: Jeff Gordon
No. 4: Kevin Harvick
No. 3: Carl Edwards
No. 2: Kyle Busch
No. 1: Jimmie Johnson

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the Top 20 drivers going into the 2009 season. The order was determined by a survey, which asked six NASCAR journalists – Ricky Craven, Jay Busbee and Jay Hart (Yahoo! Sports); Jenna Fryer (Associated Press); David Poole (Charlotte Observer); and Nate Ryan (USA Today) – to predict the final standings for the 2009 season.

2008 finish: 10th

2009 outlook: It's hard to figure out Kyle Busch's 2008 season.

On the one hand, it was brilliant, winning eight of the first 22 races of the season. On the other, it was a nightmare, losing all the momentum in the first Chase race, going winless over the final three months and finishing a hugely disappointing 10th in the standings.

However, what's important isn't what we take out of it, but what Busch does.

There's no arguing Busch finally showed what all the hype was about. Those predictions that he's going to be better than his brother, that he's as talented as anyone on the track, yeah, they're more than just talk.

Busch is the real deal, end of discussion.

But what he does with that talent in 2009 will be telling. Does he continue to grow and, in the process, continue to win races in bunches, or does he become impatient, frustrated when success doesn't come right away?

Remember, he's still only 23, and probably a young 23 at that, which is why Busch came in second to Jimmie Johnson in this poll.

No doubt Busch has the talent to beat Johnson. But what we don't know, because we haven't seen it yet, is if Busch has the mental makeup to unseat the three-time defending champ.

What you need to know: Though it would appear Busch lost it in the final 10 races of the season, a closer examination might tell a different story. He had a mechanical issue at New Hampshire, blew an engine a week later at Dover and with that his Chase was pretty much over.

"Kyle didn't change anything," team president J.D. Gibbs said. "He didn't make mistakes. We, as a team, had three issues that were our fault. For us, we just missed it there at the end."