NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Kyle Busch’s New Gibson Guitar Antics

If you blinked, you missed it… and if I didn’t live in Nashville, I probably would have. As much we like to pile on young Mr. Kyle Busch for his snippiness with reporters, his taunting bows to the crowd after a win or his guitar-smashing antics, we need to give him an “A-atta-boy” for this one.

And it all goes back to my last antic referenced: the now-infamous Gibson guitar smash in victory lane at Nashville Superspeedway. Yeah, he caught a lot of flack for it, and rightfully so. In fact, it’s still kind of a sore subject in these parts.

But this week, the driver-turned-mock-rock-star, through his Kyle Busch Foundation and in conjunction with Mike Curb’s Curb Foundation and NoS Energy Drink, donated $30,000 to the Nashville Alliance for Public Education. That money, in turn, will go toward the purchase of 150 Gibson guitars to be given to Overton and Glencliff Highs Schools here in Nashville.

Curb told the The Tennessean that, “It was [Busch’s] idea to do something for Nashville students, and I suggested this one.”

Curb is well known in racing circles – he is a longtime car owner who owned the car Richard Petty won his 200th race in – and is not only the owner of Nashville-based Curb Records but is a board member on the Nashville Alliance for Public Education.

Curb’s passion for both music and motorsports made a natural bridge for the gift, which will benefit well over 100 students that currently are forced to share instruments due to a lack of quality models and a further lack of funding available for upgrades.

And as for the smashed Gibson, Sam Bass, the noted artist who created the piece and is an avid guitar collector himself, was in Nashville in June and assured me there really are no lingering hard feelings over the incident.

“He said he meant no disrespect to me, the speedway, or Gibson, and he promised his guys a piece of the guitar,” Bass said. “I just took him at his word. He said he would order other guitars and he did, so it’s all good.”

Speaking of Kyle, that’s where we’ll start this week…

Q: I’m a little confused. Why was Kyle Busch running the rookie stripes on his car at Montreal? Last I checked, he ran a full schedule for Hendrick a few years ago. And he certainly made enough starts last season to not be a rook. Is this a road-course thing or a rain thing? Or is it because he has a rookie’s attitude? – Corby773

A: It’s a road-course thing, Corby. Specifically, it’s a Circuit Gilles Villeneuve thing. See, this street course isn’t your typical NASCAR-sanctioned track. It’s certainly more technical than any other course the Nationwide or Cup circuit visits and, with a strong likelihood of rain on race day, which would precipitate the use of rain tires, NASCAR asked Kyle to throw the yellow stripes on the bumper.

I’m sure his comment pre-qualifying didn’t help his case, either. When asked how things were going to go in the race, he had this very Kyle-ish quip:

“It’s not too much fun. These cars aren’t made for this, so it’s just a fiasco. We’re making the best of what we got. I had windshield wiper problems, defogger problems, staying on course problems – problems overall.”

“If it’s dry [on race day], hopefully we can run alright and get up through there. I’m sure we’re not going to qualify well. If it rains tomorrow, we’re going to be pretty bad.”

That’s the spirit, Kyle.

And you are correct concerning his “level” of Nationwide Series competition. Busch ran a full season in what was then the Busch Series at HMS in 2004 and has run at least 14 of the 35 events in that series since (he’s on a full-time schedule this year).

Q: I’ve been puzzled by this for a long time and finally decided to go straight to the top for a possible answer. During pit stops, the tire changer always seems to align the lugs with the studs and attach the wheel in one slick motion. How are they able to do this? Is the back side of the wheel configured in such a way as to make the wheel self-aligning? – E.J. Macke, St. Louis, Mo.

A: I think the answer to your question involves the center hub. That hub is key to fixing the tire in place, which can then be given a little sideways nudge to fit the studs just right.

These pit crew guys do it so fast and so often that it’s as much a matter of feel as it is concentrating on making it fit right – it just does. Much like those who use a keyboard at work, we don’t have to devote time finding the right letter keys because our muscle memory just takes our fingers to the right spots. The same is true for a tire changer securing the tire into place. Helpful?

Q: Now that the worst secret in the sport is official, where do you stand on [Brad] Keselowski’s move to Penske? And vice versa? Hendrick is a hard place to leave, but what choice did he have? To run NNS another two years? Take the money, Brad, and be thankful you’re been hired by Penske and not Hall of Fame! – Debbie Masters

A: Good one. In short, I like the move. Once we get past all the glad handing, with talk of “the right resources,” “the right people,” “the best opportunity,” (all of which could very well be true), situations like these often come down to two factors: 1. The former employer simply didn’t have the necessary availability to keep a driver, while 2. The new employer did and was willing to pay for the services.

It seems that both of those were in play here. With Hendrick’s stable full and Stewart-Haas Racing’s outfit not able to secure the necessary sponsorship for a third ride, it was obvious that if Keselowski wanted to make the jump to Cup (and what Nationwide Series driver doesn’t?) now was the time.

“Mr. Hendrick said he would keep working on different scenarios,” Keselowski said on Monday. “And he did. He worked as hard as he could. He told me he worked much harder on my deal than he worked on Jimmie Johnson‘s or any [other drivers] to keep me in his camp. It became obvious it was just not in the cards.”

Enter Penske, an organization on the rebound with one driver solidly in the Chase and with a fully-funded ride looking for the right guy to bring said ride back to its place of prominence. At this point in his career, Keselowski could hardly say no – so he didn’t.

Q: Mike Helton was interviewed during the Montreal NNS race and said we won’t see Cup cars with rain tires soon. I didn’t think this race was that bad as some say. Once the track was dry, the racing was real good. The problem lies in that these type of cars aren’t made to race in the rain. The high center of gravity and lack of downforce just doesn’t allow it. Let’s hope Helton stays true to his word. – Jeff May, Phoenix, Ariz.

A: Quite frankly, I thought it was a poor excuse for a motorsports event of any kind. 31 caution laps… in a 76-lap race? Four damn hours long? And not four hours of good ol’ fashioned stock car racing – no… four hours of rain, slop, turns that appeared coated with ice, and NASCAR’s throwing cautions every time someone skidded off course (which basically seemed like every lap).

And it’s not like this rain-tire experiment was a complete and total failure just last weekend. Last year’s race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve wasn’t much better in my book. You may disagree, but I don’t want a race decided by faulty de-foggers, OK? Spins everywhere, every lap. Much like this year, it was not a race, but a battle for survival. Miss the inevitable spin coming in turn 2 and you’re good… for one more lap. No thanks.

It wasn’t long ago (like a few weeks, maybe) that I was all about devoting ample test time to developing a rain tire that would work in the Cup Series. Not so anymore. Racing 800-horsepower cars in the rain is like playing golf in a thunderstorm – as much as you may want to go out, it just ain’t a good idea. And at some point, something really bad is going to happen.

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