HAMPTON, GA (WFXG) - With NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship drawing near, many drivers needed a good finish in Atlanta over the weekend to lock them into the post season conversation. Kyle Busch not only locked himself in with a victory but made a statement that he would be a force to contend with in the Championship battle.
After not making the Chase last season, Busch had to wait a full year to gain another chance at NASCAR's top crown. During that time, the talented driver had plenty to reflect on what he needed to do in order to avoid a repeat of that situation in 2013.
"We were in a whole different situation 365 days ago and not being able to make the Chase," said Busch after his win Sunday night. "I'll tell you what, this is a humbling sport. You've got to be able to take the highs and the lows, and certainly I am not very good at taking the lows. I'll be the first to admit it. But when the highs come your way you've got to treasure them because you never know how many more you'll get."
It's dealing with those huge emotion swings that has been the most difficult for Busch and his team. However, Sunday night they proved that they have grown and figured out how to deal with each other.
"I was a little ill on the radio," admitted Busch how he vented to his team about his ill handling race car early in the event. "I think if you can pin a championship night on one race or a championship on one night in a race, I think tonight was the night."
Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers admitted that Kyle was not happy but knew that his driver would not give up. His job was to overlook the emotion and listen to what Kyle felt the car needed.
"He's out there driving his butt off and the car is ill handling," said Rogers about his driver's frustration. "You've got to stay focused under those circumstances, and Kyle did a good job of doing that and gave us opportunities to work on it in the pit stops."
Despite the obstacles in Sunday night's victory, Busch felt that his team has started to turn the corner and are definitely a Championship team.
"The way tonight started out it was certainly not pretty," continued Busch. "Tonight was a night where we needed to prove to ourselves that we're championship contenders."
As many teams will focus just making the Chase in Richmond next Saturday night, Busch and his team will get a head start on winning a Championship.
"If we work hard and continued to focus in these next 11 weeks, then maybe we can be hoisting a pretty-looking trophy," said Busch on his team's championship chances.
There is no doubt that the No. 18 team has been one of the most competitive teams over the last 5 years. However they have not lived up to their potential in the post season. During that time, their biggest obstacle has come from within. If they can stay strong and avoid an internal blowup, this could truly be their best shot at a title.