Welcome to From the Marbles' 2014 season previews. Here's how we think the Chase will shake out in this first year of 16 drivers and eliminations. Will we be right? Unlikely, but it's fun to think about our soothsaying possibilities until the green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.
Driver: Kyle Busch
2013 Finish: 4th
2013 Highlight: Quick, name a race other than California in 2013 that Busch came out of nowhere to win? OK, sure Busch led 125 of the race's 200 laps, but it was down to Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. Or so we thought.
Heck, Busch might have won the race had the two drivers ahead of him not crashed.
Random note that has little to do with 2013: Busch has won 28 Sprint Cup Series races. In 13 of those, he's led over 100 laps. In 18 of those wins, he's started in the top 10. So no, it's not a monstrous illusion when it feels that a lot of Busch's wins come from when he's near the front the entire day.
2013 Lowlight: Kansas, Kansas, Kansas, Kansas. The track has a mysterious stranglehold on Busch, and maybe it's because he set the karmic wheels in motion with what happened with Brad Keselowski in the Nationwide race on Saturday.
If this trend continues, Busch may be the driver who benefits the most from NASCAR's decision to grant a Chase segment winner a pass into the next round. If Busch gets a win during the three-race period that includes Kansas Speedway, the track can mess with him as much as possible and his Chase future won't be impacted.
Why is Busch here? Because Busch is going to take a step forward and be in contention for the Chase at Homestead sooner rather than later. Despite basically eliminating himself at Kansas last year, he still finished fourth in the standings. We're of the belief that it may be a two-step process for Busch. Get to the final race and know it's possible. And then worry about winning it.
How could Busch not be here? The Chase gets derailed again and Busch is eliminated in one of the first two segments. Maybe if an engine demon strikes again or something. But we're oddly confident this is the year that he takes one of the two steps in the process outlined above.
Best Winter Olympic event: Kyle Busch as a biathlete seems like something you'd totally watch, right?
Worst Winter Olympic event: We've used figure skating previously, but there's something oddly intriguing and yet terrifying about seeing Busch in a sequined costume attempting a jump.
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