Loading scores...
Kurt Busch
Getty Images
Chasing the Cup

15. Kurt Busch

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 6, 2020, 5:38 pm ET

2019 was the tale of two seasons for Kurt Busch, which leaves us in a quandary about exactly where to place him in the preseason rankings.

Busch earned 18 top-10s during the year and he had as many in the first 18 races as at the end, and yet his average finish in the first half of the season was six spots better than in the second half. The only driver with a bigger falloff in the second half was Jimmie Johnson with a -7.83.

In the first half of the year, Busch was one of the most consistent drivers in the field. He finished on the lead lap in all but three of the races. Crash damage in the Daytona 500 and Coke 600 accounted for two of his incomplete events and in the other race in which he lost a lap, he was one trip around the track behind the leaders at Dover and still among the top 15.

Winning at Kentucky in Week 19 was the highlight of his season. It was also a turning point he would like to forget. Including that race, he had been 15th or better in 89.5% of his starts. Afterward, that number fell precipitously to 41.2%.

In the first half of the year, he finished better than he qualified in 14 of 19 races. After Kentucky, he finished better than he started only three times in 17 events.

The loss of place-differential points was only part of his problem in the closing races. Both of Busch’s DNFs for accidents came in the latter half of the season and he failed to finish on the lead lap eight times in that span.

Still, Busch ran well enough in the first half of the year to land eighth on the season-ending Fantasy Power Rankings chart. NASCAR is so dominated by the concept of ‘what have you done for me lately’, however, that it is difficult to predict Busch will be a top-10 value again in 2020. Frankly, his average finish of 16.11 should shake fantasy players’ confidence until he goes on another streak.

Last year, Busch had a 11-race streak of results 13th or better that began in Week 2, so there will be ample time to climb on his bandwagon if it develops.

Make no mistake: There will be highlights. The 2020 season will mark the 20th fulltime season for Busch. In his career, he has been winless only three times. He failed to find Victory Lane in his rookie season of 2001, but he scored four victories in each of the next two seasons. After losing his Team Penske ride in 2011, he failed to win in 2012 with James Finch or in 2013 with Furniture Row, but he was instrumental in the improvement of that team with 11 top-fives and 16 top-10s.

That made him the darling of Gene Haas, who added a fourth team to the Stewart-Haas Racing stable just for him. Busch rewarded Haas with a win in Week 6 of 2014 at Martinsville. He has not been winless since – although he has not won more than two races in a season, and that happened only once in the last six years. Busch won at Pocono in 2016, at Daytona in 2017, Bristol in 2018, and Kentucky last year. It’s anyone’s guess where he will finish best in 2020.

While Busch has not dominated Victory Lane, he has been incredibly proficient in top-10s. In 2014 he scored 11 top-10s and has not dipped into the single digits since. From 2014 through 2019, he logged 108 top-10s in 216 starts – exactly half, just as he did last year.  

All of these stats make Busch a conditionally valuable asset to the roster. Fantasy owners do not want to build a lineup around him, but anytime you get to the final slot and Busch fits comfortably into the niche, he can be started with confidence.

Three Best Tracks
Kentucky (10.8 in 9 attempts)
Charlotte Roval (12.2 in 2)
Auto Club (12.6 in 26)

Three Worst Tracks
Las Vegas (22.4 in 20)
Martinsville (20.4 in 39)
Indy (19.4 in 19)

2019 Stats
Victories: Kentucky
Top-fives: 6 (.169)
Top-10s: 18 (.500)
Top-15s: 25 (.694)

2019 Finishes at or above rank = 25 (69.4%)

Recent article(s) featuring Kurt Busch:
Strong Starters
Draft Kings Mid-Cap Productivity
Power Rankings 1-10

2019 Profile

2020 Driver Profiles:
16. Christopher Bell
17. Ryan Newman
18. Matt DiBenedetto
19. Jimmie Johnson
20. Tyler Reddick
21. Chris Buescher
22. Cole Custer
23. Austin Dillon
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25. Ryan Preece
26. Ty Dillon
27. Bubba Wallace
28. Michael McDowell
29. Ross Chastain
30. Daniel Suarez

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.