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Top 20 Countdown: No. 2 Kyle Busch

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2011 season. The order was determined by a survey, which asked five NASCAR journalists – Jay Busbee and Jay Hart (Yahoo! Sports), Jenna Fryer (Associated Press), Dustin Long (Landmark Newspapers) and Nate Ryan (USA Today) – to predict the final standings for the 2011 season. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 11 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.

Photo
Photo

(Getty Images)

2010 statistics

Finish

Poles

Wins

Top 5

Top 10

8

2

3

10

18

The countdown

No. 20: David Reutimann | Career stats

No. 19: Kasey Kahne | Career stats

No. 18: Mark Martin | Career stats

No. 17: Ryan Newman | Career stats

No. 16: Dale Earnhardt Jr. | Career stats

No. 14 (tie): Joey Logano | Career stats

No. 14 (tie): Jeff Burton | Career stats

No. 13: Jamie McMurray | Career stats

No. 12: Kurt Busch | Career stats

No. 11: Juan Pablo Montoya | Career stats

No. 10: Clint Bowyer | Career stats

No. 9: Matt Kenseth | Career stats

No. 8: Greg Biffle | Career stats

No. 7: Tony Stewart | Career stats

No. 6: Jeff Gordon | Career stats

No. 5: Kevin Harvick | Career stats

No. 3 (tie): Denny Hamlin | Career stats

No. 3 (tie): Carl Edwards | Career stats

No. 2: Kyle Busch | Career stats

No. 1: Revealed Feb. 11

2010 finish: 8th

Our 2011 predictions:
• Jay Busbee: 3rd
• Jay Hart: 4th
• Jenna Fryer: 1st
• Dustin Long: 4th
• Nate Ryan: 3rd

2011 outlook: Being a Kyle Busch fan must be a maddening existence. On one hand, you've got the guy who is, series for series, the most talented driver in the sport – a driver who can win Truck races in his sleep and Nationwide races just by showing up at the track. On the other, he's just as likely to torpedo a race, or even an entire season, with a dumb move. The dumb move of 2010 came in Kansas, where an ill-advised dust-up with David Reutimann put Busch too far behind the leaders to ever catch up in the Chase.

Still, Busch notched a relatively quiet three wins last year, ranking behind only Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, and tied with Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick. His 18 top-10 finishes tied him for fifth in the series, and he was one of only five drivers with double-digit top fives. So the talent is there and so is the will. As long as Busch keeps his emotions in check, he's a constant threat at every kind of track on the circuit.

Damage control will be the key for Busch this season. If he's able to do that, he won't be dragging the anchor of disappointing finishes through the entire season. And if he's not? Well, he'll still be worth watching. He always is.

What you need to know: Kyle was the heir apparent at Joe Gibbs Racing after Tony Stewart left, but he's been eclipsed in the standings by Denny Hamlin. He and Hamlin haven't always had the warmest of relationships – recall how they banged at each other in 2010's All-Star Race – so how well will they manage as teammates in pursuit of the same goal? And does either one of them have what it takes to dethrone Jimmie Johnson?