Thursday, August 9, 2012

Drivers to Watch: Kyle Busch versus Kevin Harvick

The Chase season starts in five short weeks and competitors are driving hard for wins – at this point, it’s anyone’s game. All of these drivers are contenders and counting anyone out is premature. We saw Tony Stewart win five out of ten races last fall, so the chance to see something more – or less – impressive is realistic. 

For this series of “Drivers to Watch” articles that we are posting over the next few days, I asked my fellow writers to weigh in with their thoughts on drivers as I compared the top contenders. Today it's Amanda's Ebersole's turn to share her thoughts on Harvick and Busch. 

Kevin Harvick – 9th in points - 0 wins - 3 top fives - 9 top 10s - 1 DNF
    versus 
Kyle Busch - 15th in points - 1 win - 6 top fives - 9 top 10s - 1 pole - 3 DNFs

Kevin Harvick at NHMS in July
Credit: Geneiveve
In all honesty, both Harvick and Busch are having unusual seasons. Both lost significant points after the Pennsylvania 400. Harvick is ninth in points and he has not won a race yet. In the last two seasons, Harvick has finished third in points and this could've easily been his year to go all the way.

Last season we learned that winning races is the key to winning the Championship. With Harvick having the talent to win five times like he did in 2006 and four times in 2011, it's odd to see him this far in the season without a visit to victory lane. Will he turn things around for the better or for the worse and can he finish in the top 10, if not top five?

This may be Busch's worst season with three engine failures in a row then a wreck and speeding penalty in Pocono. It's safe to assume luck isn't on his side. With one win under his belt, he was in contention for the wild card spot, but after the weekend's incident, he is now 15th in points. Last year, he was able to finish the season 12th in points, even after having to sit out a race. Bristol is a strong track for Busch, as is Richmond so there is time for redemption.

I say Busch's luck is poised to turn for the better while Harvick's is unpredictable. His last winless season was in 2009, yet he managed to finish ninth. 

Kyle Busch before the Nationwide Race at NHMS
Credit: Genevieve
There's time for a lot of changes, but Busch hasn't finished a season with just one win since 2007, and has managed as much as four wins per season since then. I do see him catching up to Harvick and ending the season in the top 10.

Amanda, what say you?

Comparing any two drivers is difficult but none more so than Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. To figure out their season, first we need to look at their careers as a whole.

Harvick, a 12-year veteran of the Cup Series has 18 wins, 89 top fives and 183 top 10s. Harvick has been with Richard Childress since day one and I don't foresee that changing. Even with the long-standing relationship, it seems as though the RCR teams are in a time of peril – I borrow the term from my colleague Lisa Janine Cloud, “lather, rinse, repeat” because this defines the season for the teams. Nothing to write home about, no wins and only two top 5s in 21 races…change is a-coming at RCR.

Then we have Busch, nine-year Cup veteran (that is hard to believe, isn’t it?) with 24 wins, 86 top fives and 130 top 10s. Since his career began, he has been with two powerhouse team owners, Rick Hendrick and now Joe Gibbs, something most drivers would love to say. Everyone knows that “Rowdy” Busch is a wheelman and he will get you the victories. This season he is taking on a lot – his new Nationwide team, his Truck team and running himself in the Cup Series. It has to be taxing on him mentally and physically and makes me wonder if it is taking away from his focus on track. One win this season and sitting 11th in points, Busch has the potential to win week in and week out, if they can get the “bugs” out of the system. 

Sure, by the numbers Busch wins out over Harvick, but both drivers are equally talented. If I had to choose who is going to return to victory lane this year, I have to give Kyle Busch the nod over Kevin Harvick. Other than his three engine failures this year, Kyle has had a better year and I expect him to return to victory lane soon. However, Harvick could very well prove me wrong if they get out of the rinse cycle.

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