The Frontstretch: Kyle Busch Will Race, But Can Anybody Win? by Amy Henderson -- Friday November 11, 2011

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Kyle Busch Will Race, But Can Anybody Win?

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday November 11, 2011


Nearly a week after Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch was parked for the weekend at Texas following an incident in the Camping World Truck Series last Friday night, the sport is still buzzing with reaction and speculation about the driver, the punishment, and the future.

The picture still wasn’t terribly clear on Thursday night, just hours before the Cup cars were scheduled to open the weekend practices, though a couple of the pieces have fallen into place. ESPN reported that Busch would drive this weekend, but Interstate Batteries will replace M&M’s, who was scheduled for the Phoenix weekend, as primary sponsor and will likely adorn the No. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next week for the season finale, though M&M Mars has released a statement saying that they will honor their sponsorship contract with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012. Z-Line designs reportedly has asked for Denny Hamlin to replace Busch in the No. 18 Nationwide entry at Homestead as well (Joey Logano was already scheduled to drive the car in the NNS race at Phoenix). And NASCAR handed down the additional penalty of a $50,000 fine and probation through December 31, 2011.

Kyle Busch has a history of petulant behavior and run-ins with competitors but has never faced serious repercussions until now.

Let’s be clear here: NASCAR’s role in punishing Busch is over. Any additional penalties will come from Joe Gibbs Racing and Busch’s sponsors. While the penalty from the sanctioning body seems light ($50,000 is less than the cost of a top race truck; it would have been nice to see Busch held responsible for the full replacement cost of the one he destroyed and the probation of just two races is a bit of a joke. The end of 2012 would have been much more reasonable), NASCAR is done here. Any additional penalties will come from JGR and Busch’s sponsors.

As of Thursday night, it appears that the only other penalties Busch will face are the suspension from the seat of the No. 18 Nationwide car at Homestead and the loss of M&M’s for the final two weeks of 2011 (which likely includes a refund to the sponsor for those two races).

You have to wonder if they did the right thing. Despite this week’s penalties being weak, NASCAR did all they really could. Without a clear ruling about how far is too far, without precedent for a longer parking, the sanctioning body handled the situation right. Though there are still questions to be answered-will NASCAR tolerate retaliation from other drivers on Busch for various incidents, now that they know he can’t do anything about it? I would hope not, and if that were to happen, that NASCAR would penalize them accordingly. Hitting a guy when his hands are tied is a cowardly thing to do. Hopefully NASCAR knows that and will take appropriate action

But what about JGR? As of Thursday night, there was no word from the team about any internal sanctions, and with Busch confirmed as the driver of the No. 18 this weekend, it appears that any further punishment will be either monetary or service-based. Word on the street at Texas was that Busch wasn’t given a choice about whether he wanted to sit on the pit box or not, and if that’s the case, it was the right thing for JGR to do. Having to watch your team perform without you is much more difficult when you really have to watch, instead of hiding behind whatever you can find at home to fill the time. If it is true that Busch was ordered to sit on the box for the race, it was a good move. Hopefully Busch will be asked to pay the difference in the crew’s point bonus as well to make up for the points positions he cost them. That’s only fair; the No. 18 crew had nothing to do with Busch’s actions Friday night.

As for Mars, they are in a difficult position. It’s easy to say the company should have dropped Busch. The sponsor and its merchandise are very popular with the very youngest race fans, and Busch’s attitude isn’t something that many parents want their children to aspire to. They already don’t feature Busch prominently on their website as virtually every other major sponsor does; even the backers of the smallest teams feature their drivers proudly. That M&M’s Racing does not is already telling. Truthfully, a much better fit for Busch would be an adult-oriented sponsor.

Still, Mars knows that Busch gets them the one thing they really pay for-airtime. And when it’s because of his racing, on a good day when he’s brilliant and clean, that’s great for a sponsor. Busch can win races and make the Chase in any given year, and perhaps will win Mars a championship when all is said and done, if he can learn from his past. If the company had dropped Busch and stayed with JGR, the driver pickings for 2012 would have been slim so late: Brian Vickers raised so much fan ire at Martinsville that he would be a tough sell. David Reutimann is an okay driver, not a brilliant one. Other Toyota drivers are already tied up with 2012 contracts, and Brian Scott isn’t ready for a full-time Cup gig. The top free agents have signed already. So, while Busch clearly doesn’t fit the company mold (hence Dave Rogers and the pit crew being featured on the sponsor’s website while Busch is barely even mentioned in passing), there wasn’t a better option for 2012.

For Busch, this whole experience had better be a lesson. The thing about it is, if he doesn’t learn and truly change his ways (and not just as a PR stunt like he has the last couple of times), he will ruin his own career. If he had been let go from JGR (as he still could be if he ever does something like Friday night again), he’d have little chance at a top ride at the Cup level unless he could get his own team to that level; he’s burned bridges with Roush Fenway and Hendrick, and most likely by default, Wood Brothers, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Stewart-Haas Racing as well. Richard Childress likely wouldn’t take him, and it’s debatable that Roger Penske would want another high-maintenance driver, either. And that doesn’t leave much.

Kyle Busch is a brilliant racecar driver, probably among the top five in the garage right now on raw talent. His problem lies in his utter lack of respect for anyone else. As aggressive as he was, Dale Earnhardt had the respect of the other drivers, and he respected them. Even Terry Labonte. That mutual respect is what makes most drivers adhere to the unwritten rules of motorsports: Race others like they race you. If you must get even, do it under green, spin them clean, and don’t do it when it involves others. Hooking someone in the right rear is dirty, and you never do that. Busch doesn’t seem to think those rules apply to him. He has an air of entitlement about him-he should never be the one to back out, even if reality says otherwise.

Part of the problem is that nobody has ever said “no” to Kyle Busch. His parents reportedly falsified documents so that he could race a year early, rather than playing by the rules and waiting. NASCAR certainly never told him no, not in any of the other incidents this year. If they had drawn the line sooner, maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have come to this. But nobody said “no,” and that hasn’t changed; JGR will let Busch finish out the year, M&M’s will be back at Daytona like nothing ever happened, even his NASCAR probation will be lifted after just two races. Hopefully, behind closed doors, someone has sat Busch down and told him “no more,” because if they haven’t, well, what, exactly is his reason to get off the path he’s been on since he was 15 years old?

Honestly, there’s really no solution to this situation in which everybody gets back what they had and goes on as if nothing happened. It’s a blight on Busch’s career, no matter what he does in the future. It’s possible, and hopeful, that this is what Busch needs to get himself and his career turned around. If Busch learns that his actions have consequences and that he needs to have respect for and earn the respect of his competitors, that could be the difference between a multi-championship career and never winning a title. It could mean the difference between having a top ride or not, for that matter.

The bottom line here is that NASCAR, in parking Busch and holding him accountable for his actions, did the right thing. While many people compare Busch to a driver like Dale Earnhardt, the comparison is weak. Earnhardt, as aggressive as he was, had the respect of his competitors, and he respected them. It’s the same for Tony Stewart, who changed his ways a good bit after Home Depot fined him and laid down the law as his sponsor. What Busch lacks isn’t talent, it’s respect. With respect comes judgment and maturity.

Hopefully Busch will learn that lesson through this situation. It’s flawed to say that NASCAR should have penalized other drivers and didn’t and then turn that around to say they shouldn’t have parked Busch because they didn’t park the others. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and hopefully NASCAR will realize that fans also have a line they don’t like to see crossed. They finally said “no.” But the sanctioning body acted correctly for the circumstances with the parking for one weekend. The other penalties could have been improved, but NASCAR finally drew the line in the sand on their “boys, have at it” policy, and that is a good thing.

What Kyle Busch failed to realize when he used Ron Hornaday racing him as an excuse to take out his long-standing vendetta against Kevin Harvick (because let’s face it, it was and excuse. Hornaday, not Busch had position at the time the incident started last week, and Busch was the one who decided to take it three wide at lap 15 and pinch Hornaday against a lapped truck that he knew would make Hornaday’s machine loose. He could have waited until Hornaday cleared the lapped truck to make an aggressive move to the outside.) was that his actions could have far-reaching consequences.

If he doesn’t change drastically, it could still cost his career-or worse, someone’s life. In the course of a week, Busch has mathematically eliminated his Cup team from championship contention; disgraced his sponsors, to the point where at least one appears ready to walk, leaving his team underfunded for 2012; taken bonus money out of the pockets of his pit crew with a lower points position; and put his car owner in a position no owner ever wants to be in. If Busch learns nothing, it’s a crying shame. If he learns respect for others, it could still be worth it someday, when all is said and done. Time will tell.

And Another Thing…

Seriously, Aric Almirola must be the forgiving type. After JGR treated him less than well as a development driver a few years back (Almirola subbed for Denny Hamlin, who was late arriving from his Cup obligations, at Milwaukee and was pulled from the car when Hamlin arrived despite the fact that he was running for the win at the time. Hamlin won the race, and although Almirola was credited with the win, he was visibly upset at his treatment afterwards). Nobody would have blamed him if he’d told JGR to take a hike when they inquired about him as a possible fill-in for Busch.

Contact Amy Henderson

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11/11/2011 07:43 AM

And similar to how your “story” starts….nearly a week after Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch was parked for the weekend at Texas following an incident in the Camping World Truck Series last Friday night, “writers” are still making waves over what happened as they can’t really write about anything else. After all, it happened in the truck series, not Cup, and one only has to look on the NCTWS page on this site and see the limited coverage it receives. But since it’s Kyle Busch, you guys are all over it.

And Earnhardt/Busch comparison isn’t the same? Well, maybe if Busch said that he “didn’t mean to wreck Hornaday but only meant to rattle him a bit”, you guys would be ok with it? That’s the excuse Sr. used all the time. He was definitely a cheap-shot artist but writers have either a very selective memory or are afraid of the wrath if you use Sr.‘s name in a less than holy reference.

Your articles are becoming (have been) so predictable.

Carl D.
11/11/2011 09:07 AM

I disagree with Rick; I think this article thoroughly sums up the aftermath of the ugly event at Texas. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads Amy’s columns that she comes down hard on those who step over the line, be it drivers, owners, Nascar, or even the fans. There’s a couple of reasons why Frontstretch and the rest of the race media hasn’t let this story go yet. First of all, this was a huge story. No cup driver has been parked for a race in almost a decade,and the culprit is the most hated driver in Nascar. In fact, if not for the scandal at Penn State, there would probably be even more attention still being paid to this story by the general sports media. Secondly, the story hasn’t completely played out yet. Sponsors are still making their feelings and expectations known, and JGR is still dealing with the fallout.

The best thing Kyle has going for him, PR-wise, is that Edwards and Stewart are separated by three points with nine days left in the season. I believe that by the time the green flag drops in Phoenix on Sunday, that’s what the Nascar media will be focused on.

11/11/2011 09:27 AM

Time will tell..but,talent aside, I don’t think Busch will ever win a championship. Unlike Busch, most of Stewart’s problems were off the track with the media ( he still has media problems but they are verbal and no longer physical). Stewart has learned to look at the big picture and in doing so has 2 championships and is in the hunt for a 3rd. Kyle is far from being a “newbie” in NASCAR, yet he still keeps making poor judgement calls usually associated with rookies. Will he ever just has to listen to his older brother Kurt on the team radio to see how
maturity “works” for the Busch brothers.

Sue Rarick
11/11/2011 10:23 AM

Amy, I bet it’s really annoying for you that Kyle wasn’t fired. It’s not for lack of effort on your part and Frontstretch in general.
Of course you may have the satisfaction that for the rest of this year and most likely next year we will have Kyle Busch points racing like some of your favorites do.

If Busch is smart he’ll spend next year racing for 10-15 place finishes. He’ll still make the chase and reporters like you still do your best Enquirer journalism best to find fault (rumor has it he’s an alien and came from an orange space ship) Just trying to match your journalism skill set.

11/11/2011 11:02 AM

Rick P and Sue Rarerick don’t like it when Amy opines about Shrub. So what? Are your opinions more accurate than Amy’s?

Bill B
11/11/2011 11:21 AM

What would Busch have to do for you Busch Fanboys and Fangirls to stop defending him?
Kill someone? Molest a 10 year old? Start the 4th Riech?
You all will just defend him without question.

11/11/2011 11:29 AM

Folks, how can anyone still be a Kyle fan? Come on, the guy wrecked a guy during a caution and is lucky the guy didn’t get hurt or killed. Plus, he took the guy who had a very good chance at a championship our of contention. So I ask, just how can you still support a driver like Kyle? And, all this talk about Kyle being the best driver is crazy. Yea, he is a pretty good driver but think about it. He has padded his record in the truck and nationwide series running against young drivers and over the hill drivers who have inferior equipment and crews. And, what would Kyle’s record be if Jeff Gordon, Johnson, Steward, Kenseth, Edwards, and others were racing with him in the trucks and nationwide? That’s right, very few wins. If he is such a great driver as every one says, then where is his 8-10 cup wins a year and cup championship and wins in the chase? Truth is, he melts every time he is in the chase as he was this year. Granted, he is a decent driver but all his numerous events in all three series has tarnished any thing he has accomplished. And now M&M and Interstate are still with him and Gibbs has not gave him any meaningful punishment, hope they all can live with the next Kyle event and hope no one gets injured or killed because next time it will be on their shoulders. And, take my word, there will be a next time. It may be six months it may be a year but you have not seen the last of Kyle Busch.

11/11/2011 02:18 PM

bill b you are the official moron of the day. this is about RACING. given what is going on at Penn St., and even if that scandal never broke, mentioning that kind of discretion is more immature than anything Kyle has EVER done. try thinking just a little before you type. i-d-i-o-t.

11/11/2011 02:43 PM

Terry, maybe Bill did go over the top but he made a good point. At what point will all you Kyle fans say enough is enough? I mean the guy has been doing these things for five or six years and these $50,000 fines and double secret probation or not going to straighten him out. So, like Bill said, at what point do you Kyle fans say enough is enough? If the next incident he has causes someone to get injured or killed will that be enough. The reason I ask is because there WILL be another incident it will just be a question of time. Let’s see who is right about this but I agree with the other posters, Old Christian Joe cannot bring it to himself to dump Kyle and give him any meaningful punishment. I believe there is something in the Bible about “it’s harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven”. This seems to be a perfect example of that. Old Joe cannot bring himself to do anything about his cash cow.

Robert Eastman
11/11/2011 03:18 PM

The reason people love Kyle Busch is… he takes the “Dale Earnhardt Creed” to heart! Dale lived by his motto… “Show me a racer that’s a good loser and I’ll show you a loser!” Fans LOVE “Winners With PASSION”… and KB has Great Passion for Winning… and That IS HIS MAGIC!!!
YESNASCAR’s sanctions of KB were necessary and M&M’s actions are understandable, but let’s just hope (for his sake and ours) that Kyle “grows-up”… without losing his passion for winning! As NASCAR fans, we don’t need anymore “vanilla drivers” putting us into “deep-slumber” with their “points-racing!” Race To Win or get lost… the beauty of “Saturday night short-track racing!”

11/11/2011 03:35 PM

I wanna know the over/under on how many races before he acts like a SPOILED BRAT again.

11/11/2011 03:53 PM


11/11/2011 04:05 PM

Two races is about right! He’ll be off probation for the start of 2012. Don’t think we’ll have to wait too long.

11/11/2011 05:00 PM

In a past life Busch would be flying a Messerschmitt 109 and crashing our B17 over Germany.

Bill B
11/11/2011 06:05 PM

right back at you. except you’re a blind idiot.

At least my comment, immature or not, had a zero percent probability of killing anybody.
And you know what, since it bothered YOU it was worth it.

11/11/2011 10:12 PM

well, i have never liked kyle bush, an never will,but i think you can blane the race announcers for his big head!that is all they talk about! so much , thati mute the button!

old farmer
11/12/2011 03:22 AM

RickP is right-on; and Amy is ranting, as usual.

It’s over; move on!

John Craft
11/12/2011 11:07 AM

The comparison with Earnhardt is inapt. As others have noted, Earnhardt was the consumate “cheap shot” artist…wrecking folks when he didn’t need to…just because he could. Now that Earnhardt is a “saint” rose colored recollections like those in this column prevail and history is rewritten. Sigh. Of course, none of this gives baby Busch a pass. Back in the day, Pops and Little Joe would have tuned up the petulant pup with a tire iron after the race. Problem solved well before the next race. Unfortunately, in the increasingly feminized racing world, such self help is frowned upon by current low testosterone racing doges like Brian France. More’s the pity.

Shayne Flaherty
11/12/2011 03:27 PM

It’s amazing that some of y’all just accept comments like, “Without a clear ruling about how far is too far, without precedent for a longer parking, the sanctioning body handled the situation right.” I declare BS. NASCAR could have made an example of Kyle if they had the balls to do so. We know NASCAR and BZF are spineless cowards that only pick on the little guy, not that Kyle isn’t a sawed-off little dipstick. Look at what NASCAR did to Carl Long. Do you not think that was a bit excessive? Carl’s meager career was ended in one felled swoop. Kyle deserved the same “fair” treatment. Funny, When the likes of Kyle Busch is more vilified than Joe Paterno, I cringe over the pathetic moral decline in this country.

11/12/2011 06:04 PM

nascar could not do more to kyle. After they LET Carl DUMP Brad TWICE and walk away with probation.

They could not park Kyle for the rest of the year.

Yes I am a Kyle fan, but know he went to far last Friday Night. I just read on Jayski that Kyle offered Ron the 18 truck for all of next year.

phil h
11/13/2011 12:23 PM

look…Kyle did wrong.he was parked.he was suspended.2 races.fined money.probation the remainder of season.sponsor lifted for the season.

what more do you want? have him shot?castrated?
he did the crime.those involved gave him the time.punishmnet has been ordered.Doesn’t matter whether you like it or not!
Now drop the rag and lets RACE !!


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.