The 2010 Sprint Cup season only emphasized Kyle Busch's great overall potential, underscored by a maddening inconsistency.
Busch was part of two successful 2010 owners' championships in NASCAR's national tours, the Camping World Truck Series title he captured for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team secured by eight victories, and the Nationwide Series crown he enabled Joe Gibbs Racing to win capped by Busch's record 13 victories.
Despite "pulling back" from the two secondary series to concentrate on JGR's Cup effort, Busch extended his season-record national series victories total to 24. He also won three times in the Cup Series.
"Unfortunate circumstances kind of got us out of being in that [Sprint Cup] championship," Busch said. "I think it's still pretty cool to have the opportunity to go out and race as many times as I've been able to race, to win as often as I've been able to do that."
But statistically in the Cup he was second-tier -- though at the top of that group -- and inconsistency was at the root of that.
"It was a good year [overall]," Busch said. "You always wish for more and you wish for more Cup wins and maybe you'd give up a couple Nationwide wins. Unfortunately we just fell behind too early in the Cup stuff, but we're looking towards next year to be a better one."
Busch overcame some of his roller-coaster weeks well enough to finish the regular season second to Kevin Harvick, 228 points back. He started the Chase seeded fourth, but his maddening inconsistency proved to be his undoing in the final 10 races.
He ended 2010 with 10 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and only two DNFs. But 10 finishes below 20th hurt him badly, and unfortunately five of those came in the Chase.
Without question, the highlight of the year was the 24-victory mark Busch set across the three national series, iced with 11 pole positions. Solely looking at Cup, his No. 18 Toyota team managed to solidly qualify for the Chase after missing it the previous year.
"I feel like we've done a lot of things that we really didn't expect to do," Busch said. "We won three races. We had a lot of good finishes."
But an inconsistency and inability to finish off strong runs, particularly in the Chase, was the season's low point. After two races Busch was third in the championship and in position to challenge. But five of the next seven races yielded an average finish of 25th, interspersed with a second (Charlotte) and fourth (Martinsville).
"I've kind of seen that, every year I've been in the Chase," Busch said. "Something's happened. It's very, very, very frustrating and it's very disappointing, too. You build your year in the first 26 races to make the Chase.
"You make the Chase and now you have a chance for the championship and boom, before you even get halfway in the Chase, you're already realistically knocked out -- not mathematically, but realistically knocked out. This [was] another one of those years. I'll have to bounce back as best as I can."
Four jagged statistical spurs epitomized Busch's season. In an eight-race string beginning at Phoenix in the spring, Busch's average finish was 4.25. He was second in the championship for four weeks. After that, nine races with an average finish of 20th knocked him back to eighth.
The next five races delivered an average of 4.6, which carried him to third, early in the Chase. But the season's final eight races had an average of 20th again.
After being poised to make a challenge to five-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, only to fall apart in the stretch, Busch knows fine-tuning might be all it takes to make a big difference.
"We had a lot of good runs that maybe we could have finished a little better, which we didn't," Busch said. "So I felt like that was something to build upon and go into next year with a stronger feeling and a better relationship with Dave [Rogers, crew chief], and a better relationship with Dave that he has with Mike [Ford, Denny Hamlin's crew chief] and Zippy [Greg Zipadelli, Joey Logano's crew chief], so we can all work together again to get all three Gibbs cars in the Chase, and hammer out another championship, hopefully."