“This year's definitely the best start we've ever been off to,” Busch said. “We've never finished second or had three top fives in a row to start a Chase; I don't feel like, if history serves my brain correctly. As far as I'm concerned, though, 2011 was a pretty good Chase year for us. We started out the year okay. Wasn't great. The Chase year, I should say. We got through Charlotte and we were third in points, I believe. We still had a shot. We felt like we were in contention. We had five more races to go. We had an opportunity to win the championship in 2011.”
Talladega is known for being the wild card in the Chase and, in 2011, Busch saw his championship aspirations slip away as he was caught in the Big One.
“We went to Talladega and we got crashed, then we went to Martinsville and we got crashed late in the going after running 1-2 with my teammate all race long,” Busch said. “That was sort of our year. The championship was essentially out of reach, it was over with. The year was certainly frustrating, but this is a new time for us. 2013 can hopefully be our season where we continue to knock off some of these good finishes, and our second biggest test, like I said, comes this weekend.”
Busch believes the 2.66 tri-oval at Talladega Superspeedway is the toughest track on the schedule.
“I would say Talladega is your biggest challenge,” Busch said. “Just how are you going to race there? Are you going to go full bore? Hang out, ride in the back? What exactly is going to happen? There's so much unknown in that race, I think that's the biggest test for everybody.”
Busch’s teammate said having NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings leader Matt Kenseth as a teammate has been helpful to him.
“It certainly is beneficial to have two or even three cars in the Chase,” Busch said. “Unfortunately Denny has had a terrible season. But with Matt and myself in the Chase, in contention so far, it's obviously worked really, really well for us. The things we've been doing all year long, we've been sharing some great information. We both have similar feedback. We both share similar feelings in the racecar of how we're feeling, how to get the most out of our equipment. The 18 and the 20 team work really well together. The things we have to continue to do is just that, we have to continue to work together. It's going to be a lot better to have us two being able to bounce ideas off of all the way down into the Chase and to race against the other cars.”
Teamwork will be vital for teams when the green flag drops next Sunday at Talladega.
“I think Talladega's definitely the biggest test for everybody,” Busch said. “There's certainly too many variables. It's so wide open that you just have no idea. Anybody can go into that race and win. We saw it in the spring with David Ragan and David Gilliland being able to team up at the end of the race and win the race, which was a huge David and Goliath story. I wouldn't mind seeing that again, having a non-Chase guy win the race there in Talladega.”
In the past, Busch has had several strong finishes at Talladega. He took the checkered flag at Talladega in 2008. He feels like there is an opportunity for himself as well as Kenseth to do well next Sunday.
“We just need to go through that weekend, have a good, solid picture of what we want to achieve,” Busch said. “Of course, that's a top-10 finish. Anything less than that is going to hurt us. But we certainly feel like we've had great cars there in the past. Matt Kenseth has been especially strong at restrictor plate races last year and this year. We think there's an opportunity there for Matt to do well. We also need to be there and back it up and run well ourselves.”