The Frontstretch: The Kyle Conundrum: Sunday Meltdown Latest Fault of His Fire by Doug Turnbull -- Tuesday November 9, 2010

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The Kyle Conundrum: Sunday Meltdown Latest Fault of His Fire

The Yellow Stripe · Doug Turnbull · Tuesday November 9, 2010


He’s talented. He’s fiery. He may be his own worst enemy. There are many adjectives to describe Kyle Busch, the 25-year-old driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota, who absolutely shot himself in the foot, then chopped it off, salted it, cooked, and ate the nasty appendage during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. His frustration has obviously steamed to a boil, especially after seeing the success of teammate Denny Hamlin coincide with the unraveling of consistency in his own camp. But where does a zealous passion to win bleed into a damning obstacle that only fuels itself more as the winning mark is missed?

Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 started as a solid race for Busch, who qualified his No. 18 a disappointing 29th. He wasted no time negotiating through traffic and worked his way into the top 10 before disaster struck the team. Busch spun on lap 160, just four laps after a restart, and nearly collected several race cars. In his rush to beat the field off pit road after initial repairs, Busch was nabbed for speeding by NASCAR, which prompted him to both berate the sanctioning body on his radio and then flip the bird for an elongated time to the official standing in his pit box. The No. 18’s in-car camera conveniently captured Busch’s salute to NASCAR, sealing his fate and ensuring ire from the powers that be. The tower immediately penalized Busch two laps for his misconduct.

Kyle Busch’s unleashed emotional rollercoaster continues to take its toll on his career. However, judging by their stance at Texas it seems NASCAR has decided they don’t have to “Deal With It” any longer.’s Bryan Davis Keith reported from Texas that as the situation unfolded, Busch’s crew chief Dave Rogers repeatedly tried to calm Busch, but then as the youngster resorted to extreme profanity and beat his steering wheel, Rogers authoritatively put his foot down and attempted more so than most to put “Kryle” in his place, claiming the team “works too hard” for their driver to dig themselves a hole on his own. Still, the damage from the verbal tirade was done. Three laps down after the incident, another decent finish for the M&M’s team was ruined by the vitriol of Kyle Busch.

Is Busch’s attitude bad, or is it the edge that a driver needs to push him over the top and outstep his competitors? Defenders and fans (which there are more of than you think – the boos just overshadow their meager cheers) say that Busch’s temper is just the fallout from an extreme desire to win, and that passion is what fuels him to dominate in any race vehicle into which he steps. There is no doubt that Busch wills himself toward Victory Lane, but this zealousness also damns him. Remember his breakout 2008 Cup season? Busch won eight times on a plethora of racetracks and was the odds-on favorite to snap two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson’s stranglehold on the title. What happened? Two adversity-filled races into the Chase and Busch was out to lunch, giving up on the 26 races of chemistry the team had built that season. So disgusted after two mechanical failures, he likely would have not even shown up for the last eight if he were not forced to do so in his contract.

This stretch was only one of many times Busch had displayed this behavior. In 2008, after a string of poor finishes, Busch elected not to try and run for the Nationwide Series championship, though Joe Gibbs Racing had tapped him to do so. At Texas Motor Speedway in April 2007, Busch left the track after wrecking his Chevy, prompting his then-Hendrick Motorsports team to enlist Dale Earnhardt, Jr., his eventual replacement, to run the car for a few laps. There is wide opinion in NASCAR circles that Busch’s relentless pursuit of the 2009 Nationwide Series title distracted him so much from his Cup effort, it was the cause for the team’s missing the Chase that year. Busch also constantly berates his crew after bad pit stops and throws
“mini-tempers” when his car is handling incorrectly, making statements such as, “We’re done” or “We’re junk – might as well take her to the garage.”

Blame his being a perfectionist, blame his passion, but there is no doubt that this behavior holds Busch back and takes away the edge that leads ice-in-their-veins drivers like Jimmie Johnson to championships.

Personal and team goals aside, Busch’s behavior has other repercussions. Camping World Truck Series point leader and 2006 Truck Series champ Todd Bodine has been very critical of Busch’s erratic behavior. In an interview with both Frontstretch’s Jay Pennell and me just one day after an altercation with Busch, Bodine blasted him on his overall disrespect of the sport. He cited on-track run-ins, post-race scuffles, and even Busch’s choosing to skip the most recent Truck Series driver’s meeting as signs that this young man’s world revolves solely around how he feels and what he needs to succeed.

While NASCAR drivers have to be self-concerned at times, the stock car community is tight-knit and (although the culture is moving away from it) steeped in tradition and respect. Busch’s bad-tempered displays often sour the mood in the garage, anger fans, and are a poor example to young race fans who look up to drivers.

Whether one cites Busch’s entitlement, his disrespect for his team and other competitors, or his seeming disrespect for traditions of the sport, there is little doubt that his anger mismanagement is all a result of passion mixed with immaturity. Busch grew up racing competitors older than he was and beat them, rose to stardom in his late teenage years, and never had the chance to adjust and mature in a normal environment. He grew up used to winning, used to getting his way, and now cannot accept anything less. Busch will eventually grow up into a fiery competitor who can temper and focus his fire in a way that will propel him to more wins and championships. But will later be too late? Can his owner Joe Gibbs, famous for harnessing these characteristics in both the drivers he’s employed and the football players he’s coached, get through to him? Can others in the sport that he respects make an impression on Busch? When will things click? If they don’t soon, he will have alienated so many of the core remaining NASCAR fans that if he does rise to win a Cup title, the sport will once again be left with another champ it does not want.

So if NASCAR is trying to claw back into fans’ good graces, Kyle’s success will be a major obstacle – just like it’s been for the driver himself at times.

Contact Doug Turnbull

Tuesday on the Frontstretch:
Five Points To Ponder: It’s On, A Crew Chief’s Plea, And Dr. NASCAR Evil’s Biggest Mistake
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In NASCAR: Texas-Phoenix Edition
No Bull: Two Blue Oval Men, Two Different Paths Symbolic Of Their NASCAR Season
Talking NASCAR TV: Focus Hurts ESPN Once Again At Texas

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Stephen Hood
11/09/2010 07:37 AM

Could it be that Busch doesn’t have the mental toughness to win at the Cup level? He dominates at the NW and truck levels, but he always has one of the top three race cars/trucks. In Cup, he is surrounded by equally good equipment. His own teammates are proving that their levels of talent are equal to their brother Kyle. His breakout year was also the first full season of the COT, and several others who were breaking out have fallen off the bandwagon as the car has evolved (Edwards, Busch, Martin, Earnhardt). I think Busch has to have a top three car at every venue to dominate in Cup, and that isn’t going to happen. I agree that he is a talented driver, and I know he has passion and vigor for winning, but I do think he lacks the mental toughness that is exhibited by his teammate and by Sir Johnson.

Bill B
11/09/2010 07:39 AM

The next time my 7 year old nephew throws the checker board across the room when he loses I’ll make sure I congratulate him on his desire to win. I’ve always thought that type of behavior was something you tried to teach a child not to do but I wouldn’t want anyone to think my nephew doesn’t have a desire to win so I guess I should reinforce that behavior. What’s a good reward for throwing the board across the room?

11/09/2010 07:39 AM

VaBlueGrass: Randy Nacho is always right and makes everyone else look stupid? Is that sarcasm? It either has to be, or you must be Randy Nacho incognito. Volcano Goldman is, perhaps, the most brain-dead na$car fan that could be found.

Doug: Excellent column, and all true. I was prepared to post everything in your conclusion as the actual problem with Kyle, but you said it.
The average age for final brain maturation (assosciated with being able to grasp abstract ideas and corellate seemingly unconnected events) is 24. This milestone is the measuring stick by which psychologists determine if a person has left adolescence behind.
One has to look at Kyle, and believe he has not quite completed this stage of development. His pampered lifestyle, and spoiled upbringing have led to an arrogance that make him believe that he is owed success, and not that he must earn success.

Even though Jimmie Johnson’s stranglehold on the chase is unpopular, he is a different example from Kyle. Jimmie has run in junk equipment. He knows that hard work and dedication are what gave him his opportunities today. That is the real difference between him and Kyle.

11/09/2010 08:37 AM

kyle is just one of the many things nascar needs to regain any relevancy with fans and potential fans. What generally passes for and passion and determination by nascar and the its media these days is quite laughable in my opinion. You’re no Dale Sr. but, bring it on kyle, you self anointed savior you!

11/09/2010 08:39 AM

When has Jimmie ran in junk equipment? Where is the outrage at the 48 swapping crews, like Harvick received? If Jimmie had not been complaing the swap would not have happened, but we the fans heard nothing of it. Double Standard? I believe this was the same team who pitted him for 4 “championships” and what 6 or 7 wins this year.

Carl D.
11/09/2010 09:29 AM

Yeah, Kyle Busch is his own worst enemy. On the other hand, it’s hard to really care about a guy who’s such a jerk.

I never considered it before, but maybe VolcanoRandy is also Kyle Busch. Think about it… both are constantly complaining, neither one can can accept any critism, both throw childish tantrums, and both are annoying as hell. VolcanoRandyBusch?.

11/09/2010 10:50 AM

I like Kyle and his desire to win. He reminds me some of a young DW. Eventually, he’ll calm down and win a few titles. He should have won in 2008 but his equipment let him down in the Chase.

Bill B
11/09/2010 10:52 AM

“I love the irony from day to day as people who 24 hours ago praised Gordon for fighting, now bash Rowdy for immaturity.”

That’s the one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard. If the Jeffs did something stupid like that every other week then yes you could claim immaturity but it’s the exception not the rule.
On the other hand Kyle Busch does something mature every time something doesn’t go his way. Just like a child or teenager. How can you not see that! Are you blind man or just making lame excuses for your hero?
BTW,,, how was that use of bold? LOL

Bill B
11/09/2010 10:54 AM

Obviously that should read…
On the other hand Kyle Busch does something immature every time something doesn’t go his way.

11/09/2010 11:28 AM

Seems like Kyle lacks the focus for long races. Sure, he’s won plenty of Cup races, but he doesn’t run as consistently as he should. Lower series races are shorter and easier to win with the right setup early on, but Cup races require adjustments, focus… Kyle usually slaps the wall three quarters of the way through a race, tells his crew that he’s killed the car and it’s junk, and he doesn’t finish close to where he was running.

Well, that and a lack of responsibility for his results… apparently it’s NASCAR’s fault he was speeding, and he didn’t win the race because Carl Edwards cheatingly jumped the green flag.

dan deforest
11/09/2010 11:35 AM


11/09/2010 11:36 AM

Kyle Conundrum: Sunday Meltdown Latest Fault of His Immaturity

Goldman: Also, grammar police, NASCAR is an acronym, all capitalized, and does not contain a $

LMBO I suppose “‘Cause its racing” is proper grammer, too.

11/09/2010 11:40 AM

Kyle Bush: arrogant, obnoxious, spoiled, immature and narcissitic. Not a team player. Great driver. Excellent car control. ZERO self control. NOT WHAT NASCAR NEEDS. NASCAR already has enough jerks like DW poisoning what’s left of our sport(?)!

11/09/2010 12:04 PM

Maybe they should drug tedt thr brat.

11/09/2010 12:05 PM

Maybe I should learn to type.

11/09/2010 12:18 PM


When was he in junk equipment? The two seasons he raced for Herzog Motorsports in the Busch series.

11/09/2010 12:19 PM

“@RGoldman – NASCAR websites are full of fans like these… no wonder we can’t grow our sport.”

Seriously missed the point here junior. Have you not picked up a recurrent theme – the sport WAS huge. NASCAR had a ridiculously huge, loyal fan base. We lived and breathed this sport for decades. Brian France takes over and we know what has transpired on his watch. RG – at least appear to understand what the hell you are participating in………..

11/09/2010 12:39 PM

I’ve been watching NASCAR since the 1970’s, growing up in Daytona Beach. I’ve seen more drivers get mad, cuss, flip the bird, throw a helmet, throw a punch, and do all sorts of other things that are not considered proper in civilized society. Most of those things were done by the very people that are called heroes of the sport. A few were penalized here and there, but I don’t ever recall anyone being park for a couple of laps for giving NASCAR the finger. Is Kyle Busch an angry young man, probably so, but I suspect there are many angry young men in the ranks of NASCAR. That bird was intended for the officals in the booth who decided to penalize him for speeding. Right or wrong, the guy is tired of doing what he is told is the right thing and having it backfire on him. I also suspect that he was peeved from the previous nights final restart. On numerous occasions over the years I have seen drivers jump the restart and get penalized or have the start waived off. On numerous occasions over the last couple of years I have also witnessed NASCAR ignore a jumped start if young Mr. Busch was the victim. In the two instances that I have seen in which he was the agressor in a jumped start, he was penalized both times. That makes for a very angry young man. No, I am not a member of the Kyle Busch fanclub, but I am a racer, and an ardent observer of a sport that I care dearly about. When was the last time you saw a guy get penalized for flipping a bird? There are some twelve year olds on my block that need to be held for a couple of laps.

Carl D.
11/09/2010 12:44 PM

Personally, it’s not my job to grow the sport. I haven’t received one bent dime from Nascar for helping to build the fanbase. I can’t speak definitively for Frontstretch, but I bet they don’t get paid by Nascar to grow the sport either. That’s Nascar’s job, and they’re failing at the task.

11/09/2010 12:50 PM

Though I hate to admit that I agree with Randy G more than not, I think rather than grammar police, I’d say more like grammar nanny!

11/09/2010 01:00 PM

Sorry Doug, but I think you missed it here. REAL race fans, like myself, really enjoy Kyle Busch. Probably the most passionate driver on the track everyweek. Seems to me that the only people who don’t like him are the folks that signed up as JR fans or after Sr passed…. These are the only folks NASCAR really cares about anyway. These are the type fans that are going away as quick as they came in. If their wondering why the ratings are down, try talking to the older fans and they will tell them. It’s really refreshing to see a guy just want to race every chance he gets. Too many of the vanilla guys are more worried about their bars, jets, buses, dogs, carwashes, maids, gardeners, etc. Every writer out there complains about drivers being vanilla, but when one finally explodes, you blast em for it. Would it be cooler if it was JR throwing the bird. I can bet ya he wouldn’t loose 2 laps……

11/09/2010 02:44 PM

I still support Kyle. I like him. I’ve flipped the finger at every imaginable NASCAR official. Trouble is none of them have ever seen me do it since I’m just a peon fan. If I had the chance to do it on camera where they would see it I would not waste the opportunity. Any group who has worked as diligently to bring a sport I really, really like down in flames as they have done deserve all the salutes they get and more.

11/09/2010 02:59 PM

Seems this article forgets the fact that Kyle was given a lap penalty for speeding on pit road the first time, thats why he was so upset. That hardly ever happens! Speeding on pit road means to the back of the line. Just sounds like another anti-Kyle article to me.

11/09/2010 03:56 PM

Finishing 10th in points and 3rd for Busch Rookie of the Year behind Harvick and Hornaday does not mean he was in Junk Equipment. I agree this was not HMS equipment but many of the drivers out there today would have liked to started their stockcar career in this quality of equipment.

11/09/2010 04:05 PM

What is the speed where we go from drive-thru, end of longest line penalty to a one lap penalty for speeding on pit road? I have seen numerous drivers really fly down pit road not to lose a lap and they received only end of longest line penalty.

11/09/2010 05:05 PM

Kyle was busted for “speeding to beat the pace car to the line”, hence the full lap penalty.

11/09/2010 05:12 PM

Shrub needs to got to Jimmy Spencer`s charm school like his arrogant brother did. A punch in the nose is cheap compared to Dale Carnegie

Bill B
11/09/2010 05:49 PM

When a guy is caught speeding on pit road during a pit stop because he’s trying to beat other cars out first they are sent to the end of the longest line. When a guy speeds to beat the pace car back to the line to keep from losing a lap, that’s when they get penalized a lap. To let them stay on the lead lap and go to the tail end would be no penalty at all. They would already have been at the tail end if they could have made it out without speeding. Seems pretty simple to me and I won’t swear to it, but I think NASCAR has been consistently calling it that way for the last couple of seasons.

11/09/2010 06:16 PM

Not to cause big arguement, I have to disagree I believe I have seen numerous drivers speed to beat the pace car and not all of them have received one lap penalty, I will agree some have received this penalty but not all.

Flipping off and cussing are detrimental to racing, but fighting/shoving is not. Is this because one of them was Jeff Gordon? I thought this was the year of have at it.

Kyle got basically the same penalty that Carl got for intentionly wrecking/flipping Brad at Atlanta. I guess they are basically the same thing: Flipping the Bird(hurting someone’s pride)and trying to physically hurt someone. Damn them must be GOOD DRUGS they’re doing down on the Beach.

11/09/2010 07:52 PM

Obviously NASCAR is more than, let’s just use the word “fickle” here, and you all can change it to what ever comes to mind. They make the rules as they go.

But in TV land, specifically speaking FCC TV land, flipping the bird on the tube ranks right up there with the F-bomb. You can’t do it. Networks pay fines for those types of things.

Speaking of networks being fined, ESPN should be fined for all those times they showed the points when it didn’t freakin matter but when the race was over they didn’t have a clue that yeah, now that it matters, people are now waiting for them to be shown.

11/09/2010 07:53 PM

KyBu is an insolent, arrogant, spoiled punk.

He can dish it out but he can’t take it. i’d dislike him just because of his racing style, but what makes me despise him is the fact that he whines and throws tantrums every time he gets even the smallest taste of his own medicine.

That said, I could almost like him for flipping off NASCAR.

phil h
11/09/2010 11:58 PM

Razz……..u r exactly right! The way Nascar has run their show of late,we should all follow Kyle and give’m the “finger”!

11/10/2010 08:28 AM

I hope Kyle doesn’t ever change to conform to NASCAR’s boring driver’s mold. We like him just the way he is now.
PS: We don’t need the CHASE!!!