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Head2Head: Edwards or Busch ... bigger surprise out of top 10?

March 19, 2012, ,

There are plenty of surprises in the Cup Series standings after four races, and some pretty big names outside the top 10. But while some are there by their own making, for Dave Rodman and Bill Kimm, two drivers stand out as the biggest shocks so far this season -- Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

Who is the bigger surprise outside the top 10 -- Edwards or Busch?


Carl Edwards has experience with "slumps," particularly at the start of a new Cup Series season. But that was back in antiquity.

Edwards has made such strides in his career and his ability since that 2009 debacle, when he went winless after leading the series with nine victories in 2008, there was no reason to believe that Edwards would come out in 2012 with anything less than a pure vengeance.

Despite losing the 2011 Sprint Cup championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker, Edwards had a spectacular career year. He had a 52 percent ratio of top-five finishes and a 72 percent ratio of top-10s, even though he won only once. His average start and finish were both better than 10th.

Everything pointed toward 2012 being, if not better, certainly not a lot worse. But what's actually happened so far this season is proof that racing, on any level, can be the most unpredictable of sports.

The season's only four races old but already it's looking like 2009 all over again, maybe worse. In 2009, Edwards started with an 18th at Daytona and had two top-10 finishes in his first four starts, sandwiched around a 17th at Las Vegas.

Sunday's nightmare at Bristol has Edwards 14th in the standings, his worst point position since he was 15th after race eight in 2010. Despite the fact that he's in good company outside a qualified position for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Edwards' previous consistency makes that a shock.

Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

The biggest surprise for me early this season is seeing Kyle Busch sitting 15th in points. Not only is he 15th, but he is 24 points outside of 10thplace and a Chase position. After seeing Busch's dominance the past few years, I never expected him to start a season in such a hole.

In the first four races, Busch has exactly one top-10 -- a sixth at Phoenix. He was 17th at Daytona; finished 23rd at Las Vegas after a late-race spin; and finished a disappointing 32nd at Bristol after getting caught up in a crash on Lap 24.

To put it in perspective -- Busch's average finish in the first four races is 19.5 and he has finished on the lead lap in just two of those four starts. This is the worst start to a season Busch has had since joining the Cup Series in 2005, and at tracks he has shown plenty of success.

Sure, Daytona is a crapshoot, but between Phoenix, Vegas and Bristol, Busch has seven victories and top-10s in 58 percent of his starts. These are tracks that fit Busch and he isn't performing as expected.

But perhaps the most surprising aspect of Busch's start is he isn't the dominant car of the weekend. It would be one thing if this could all be chocked up to bad luck, but the No. 18 hasn't wowed in practice or qualifying and in races, we don't hear Busch's name mentioned very often.

Is it a fluke? Is it a precursor to the season? We will soon find out. But one thing is for sure ... I didn't see it coming.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

So, who do you agree with ... Rodman's pick of Edwards or Kimm's pick of Busch? Read their arguments and then weigh in with your own in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.