#1 Kyle Busch, 2008
The most disappointing performance in the history of the Chase goes to Kyle Busch in 2008.
If you’ve been watching NASCAR since the Chase was implemented, you know that Busch and the Chase don’t get along.
And out of all the bad postseasons he’s had, 2008 was by far his worst.
Kyle and the 18 team went into the Chase with eight wins. With a huge advantage over the rest of the field, 2008 seemed like the year Busch would prove that he is championship material.
Instead he plummeted to the bottom of the standings. He finished 34th at New Hampshire and 43rd at Dover.
He had a handful of top-10s to his credit, but he wasn’t able to win a single race in the Chase after dominating in the regular season.
When the dust of the Chase finally settled, Bush had dropped to 10th in the standings.
#2 Kurt Busch, 2005
In 2005, Busch was driving for Roush Fenway Racing when he entered the Chase to defend his Sprint Cup (then the Nextel Cup) that he had won in 2004.
Besides a poor performance, he found himself suspended for the last two races of the Chase. He ran into a little bit of trouble with the local police at Phoenix and was given a citation for reckless driving. The officer who stopped Busch believed he smelled alcohol on Kurt’s breath, but he was only charged with reckless driving because a breathalyzer malfunctioned. Busch also was released from his contract early from Roush Fenway Racing.
He finished that season in 10th place, the bottom of the Chase standings.
For a defending champion to not only struggle in the postseason but also to get suspended and dropped from his organization is a major Chase disappointment.
#3 Kurt Busch, 2011
This was the last year Kurt Busch would race for Penske Racing.
It’s also a year when he would have a disappointing Chase. Busch finished the year in 11th place, one spot above his younger brother Kyle, but how Kurt finished the season was more than likely part of the reason Penske Racing let him go.
After feuding with Johnson, Kurt did nothing in the Chase and finally let his aggravation out during the final race of the season when he was caught on camera verbally abusing an ESPN reporter. He also gave the reporter the middle finger.
Busch would eventually find himself removed from Penske, and while the organization didn’t come out and say they dumped Busch because of his actions at Homestead, it definitely made their decision to get rid of him a lot easier.
Page 2 of 2 - Finishing the season in 11th and getting kicked out of your organization is a pretty bad way to end your Chase.
#4 Denny Hamlin, 2012
Hamlin went into the 2012 Chase with five wins. The 11 team was the group to beat heading into the postseason, but when the Chase ended they would have to settle for a sixth-place finish.
Unlike several of the other disappointing Chase performances on this list, Hamlin’s 2012 finish isn’t entirely his fault.
Winning wasn’t the issue for the Hamlin. Mechanical problems and other issues were.
He ran out of gas at Chicagoland, then after using the wrong air pressures for qualifying at New Hampshire, Hamlin was forced to overcome a poor starting position, which he did, and managed to win the race.
Hamlin’s 2012 season was a major disappointment not because of his driving ability but because the 11 team couldn’t get in sync. It arguably cost him the title that season.
#5 Jimmie Johnson, 2011
Johnson entered the 2011 Chase looking to win his sixth consecutive title and looking like the man to beat.
Unfortunately, his 2011 run was the worst postseason of his career. Not only did it end his consecutive title run, it was also the first time he didn’t finish in the top five at the end of the season.
Johnson ran into several problems during the postseason, and he didn’t seem to intimidate anyone like he had in the past. He also seemed to be on a different page than crew chief Chad Knaus.